Portrait of a young woman as a vestal virgin keeping the sacred fire.
French school, circa 1720 , follower of Jean Raoux.
19th century giltwood painted frame.
It appears that portraying women royalty and noble women as Vestal Virgins was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries.
In ancient Rome, the vestals or vestal virgins (Vestales, singular Vestalis) were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The college of the vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome. They cultivated the sacred fire that was not allowed to go out. The vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children, and took a vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were off-limits to the male colleges of priests..
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