Paul Tonnes
Bleue Tarcisius
A story of love and sadness between an artist and his muse as told in image and text.



Bleue Tarcisius, 1866 (altered c.1904)
Guillaume-Aurore Blanc
France, 1834 – 1882 Courtesy of Julia Carter Packard The story of Bleue Tarcisius, probably Blanc’s most important and storied painting, begins in the summer of 1864, when Alexandre Falquière asked Blanc to photograph a model that Falquière planned to use for his sculpture of St. Tarcisius. Blanc photographed Albion Shine, a boy of 15, as the model for the saint. The photograph depicts Shine reclining and clutching a box containing the sacred host. (This photograph now resides in the archive at the Musée Rodin, Paris). Also intrigued by the story of St. Tarcisius, Blanc began painting Bleue Tarcisius in 1865. Bleue Tarcisius, completed in 1866, met with some criticism but was eventually shown in the prestigious Exposition Universelle in 1867. Falquière’s sculpture, Tarcisius, Christian Martyr, was completed in 1868 to wide acclaim and soon eclipsed Bleue Tarcisius in importance (Tarcisius, Christian Martyr now resides in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris). Bleue Tarcisius was purchased by an American, Claire Carter, in 1868. The painting remained in her possession until her death in 1874. The whereabouts of the painting from 1875 to 1898 are unknown. In 1898 it was purchased by Overland College and Conservatory in Delaware. While residing at Overland, sometime around 1904, the painting was modified (some say vandalized) with the addition of the Röntgen tube on the left side of the canvas. In 1949 the painting, now considered damaged and unimportant, was deaccessioned by Overland for 65 dollars. Again the painting disappeared and resurfaced in 1980, when it was purchased by Julia Carter Packard, a descendant of Claire Carter. In 2007 restoration and analysis of the painting began.


Guillaume-Aurore Blanc
France, 1834 – 1882 Guillaume-Aurore Blanc was a French portrait painter and photographer who apprenticed under Hippolyte Delaroche from age seventeen until age twenty-two. Encouraged by Delaroche, Blanc moved to Paris in 1857. In Paris he met sculptor Alexandre Falquière, only four years his senior and also from Blanc’s hometown of Toulouse; the two became friends. Blanc enjoyed modest success in Paris, selling his paintings and photographs and exhibiting in select salons. In 1864 he inherited a small home outside of Paris and moved his studio to what he called his “chalet peu de thé” (little tea cottage), where he continued to live and work for the rest of his life. In 1874 Blanc married a woman 18 years his senior, Hortense Manon Pelletier, the daughter of Bruno Pelletier, president of the board of directors for the prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts. Blanc was accepted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1875. While most of his photographic work is widely scattered or lost, a few of his paintings can be found in the Musée d'Orsay. Blanc continued to paint until his death in 1882. He is buried in the Châtenay-Malabry cemetery near his beloved chalet peu de thé.
Bleue Tarcisius
Pigment and X-ray Analysis Restoration of Bleue Tarcisius began in 2007 by the New York firm Art Analytics Inc. (AAI) under the guidance of an ad-hoc committee consisting of Julia Carter Packard, her son Jason Packard, AAI founder Sam Weston, and Overland College and Conservatory Director of Museum Collections, Prof. Alice Winegaard. Analysis began with X-ray and infrared imaging of the painting to judge the condition of the canvas and the extent of the damage. These images revealed an under-painting of unknown origin. In light of this finding, and in an attempt to uncover the mystery of the later addition of the Röntgen tube, the ad-hoc committee requested that AAI perform chemical analysis of the pigments (a difficult and contentious decision due to the potentially destructive nature of pigment sample removal necessary for the analysis). Chemical analysis revealed that the Röntgen tube was likely painted between 1900 and 1927 due to the availability of the particular brand of paint. Sampling also revealed a red ferrous pigment underneath the painting, corresponding to the location of the palimpsest poem revealed in the imaging studies.




Bleue Tarcisius
At Overland College and Conservatory Bleue Tarcisius, purchased by Overland College and Conservatory in Delaware in 1898, was initially displayed in the college president’s office. However, President Balmer grew to dislike the painting, writing in his diary, “I can no longer tolerate the relentless imploring look of the lad.” The painting was moved to the sitting room opposite the library, where it remained until Overland sold the painting in 1949.
Fabiola or The Church of the Catacombs
A Gift Courtesy of the Albion Shine Archive. Merton College, Oxford This volume of Cardinal Wiseman’s Fabiola was found in Albion Shine’s home shortly after Shine’s death. The Guardian newspaper reported: “Mrs. Miller, the wife of a Warwickshire sheep farmer and neighbor of Mr. Shine, was the first to find the body of our dear Poet. ‘He was lying in his bed, and O he looked so at peace’, said the portly Mrs. Miller. ‘I bent over and reached down to close his eyes and I found a little green book tucked up under his pillow. And well, it must have meant something to him, don’t you think?’” – The Guardian, November 29th, 1923.
Bleue Tarcisius
A Found Poem X-ray imaging of Bleue Tarcisius revealed a poem, painted on the canvas but covered by surface layers of paint. This poem, an early work of Albion Shine, can be found in his poetry collection, The Tea Cottage. I hold not the Divine Mysteries in a box
Though daydream such ecstatic journeys
During breezy country walks
That bring me to your cottage with its canvas, its oils, Its instruments of focus, scent of steeping Earl Grey tea.
Stern eyes appraise their model
your tongue clucks when you're pleased,
Your hand tucks back a lock of hair Brushes past my knee, fusses with a fold
Of cloak, like a mother, yet a linger--
Or do I imagine, in this room so autumn cold
A warming as your brown eyes scan my own?


Albion Shine
United States, 1849 – 1923 Albion Shine was an American expatriate poet. In 1858 Shine moved with his parents from Chicago to Paris, where his father established a sales office for an American manufacturing company. In 1865 he modeled for painter/photographer Guillaume-Aurore Blanc for Bleue Tarcisius and also for Alexandre Falquière’s Tarcisius, Christian Martyr. He attended Merton College in Oxford until his graduation in 1872. After working for two years as a clerk in London, he returned to Oxford to study under Sir Francis Hastings Doyle. In 1877 he published his breakthrough collection of poems, Oculi Omnium, to considerable acclaim. In 1880 British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli quoted from Shine’s poem, “Quadratus,” in the House of Lords, thus cementing his place in English literary history. Shine went on to publish seventeen more volumes of poetry, including The Tea Cottage, and Chapter XXII (illustrated). He is credited with reviving the text/illustration poetic form which William Blake pioneered in the 18th century. In 1901 he was appointed Poet in Residence at Delaware’s Overland College and Conservatory, a position he held for three years. Shine, suffering from what he termed “a severity of melancholia that knows no limits” returned to England in 1904. He spent his remaining years on a gentleman’s farm near Birmingham. He is buried in Poets Corner, Westminster Abby. The year 2002 saw resurgence in academic interest of his poetry with the publication of Albion Shine, the Pre-Modernist Modernist, by Margarie Manwaring.

© paul tonnes