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The sitter, Madame Mathilde Loeser, was painted by Brett at the request of her husband Frederick Loeser. However, it is said that several artists wished to paint her, for her 'wild bush of grey hair and her strange and picturesque beauty'. The wing of the dove echoes the curved outline of the sitter's skirt, and the dove motif is repeated in the mosaic brooch on her shoulder.

August 2004