27. May 2014 · Comments Off on A Portrait of Roman · Categories: Portrait & Still Life

Roman is the great-grandson of Dr. Samuel Pozzi, the subject of John Singer Sargent’s painting “Dr. Pozzi at Home.” Dr. Pozzi’s daughter, Catherine Pozzi, is Roman’s grandmother.

Photograph Copyright 2013 Alice Gebura All Rights Reserved.
roman and dr pozzi

More on this fascinating family

Born in Bergerac, France in 1846, Dr. Samuel-Jean Pozzi is:

“often described as the ‘father’ of French gynecology, he was one of those responsible in the latter part of the nineteenth century for making surgery safe and effective. As a young intern he participated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. His experiences with treating war wounds led him to visit Joseph Lister in Scotland in 1876 to study the principles of antisepsis and anesthesia. Pozzi wrote one of the first comprehensive textbooks of surgery on women, in the newly christened field of gynecology. The French published the textbook in 1890 and American publishers printed the first English-language version in 1892.

Pozzi was also an anthropologist of note. He corresponded with Charles Darwin, translated one of his works and became President of the French Society of Anthropology. Pozzi spoke English fluently and made three extended visits to the United States where he enjoyed the friendship of the Mayo Brothers and other eminent American surgeons. His contributions to women’s health were enormous.”doctorpozzi.com

His daughter, Catherine Pozzi, was a poet and philosopher who:

“in January 1909 married a young stockbroker with literary interests, Édouard Bourdet,  and in October of the same year their only child, Claude Bourdet, was born…While she was slowly dying from tuberculosis she pursued serious scientific studies, desperately trying to find some way of combining the discoveries of modern science with her mystical intuitions.”pozzicatherine.org

Claude Bourdet, son of Catherine and Edouard and the father of Roman, worked for the French Resistance during WWII and was an influential left-wing journalist. He wrote of his grandfather:

“One day, just before the First World War, I was coming out of the apartment block where my grandfather lived and where he had his consulting rooms, on the Avenue d’Iéna. There was a carriage coming down the avenue and it seemed to me to be an electric carriage because I was, I remember, struck by the fact that I did not see a horse. I was four or five years old, so long ago that I can’t be sure of real impressions at that time. But what I am sure of is that my grandfather, whom we had not found at home, jumped out of the carriage and took me in his arms very tenderly, as he always did. My governess was watching on the footpath. Then my grandfather more or less threw me into the carriage where I disappeared into a mass of silk and feathers that covered me with kisses. My memories of this event are entirely agreeable, but there was more to come. My grandfather retrieved me, and returned me to my governess, and spoke words that I have never forgotten, probably because they have been repeated to me a hundred times since: “You have just been kissed by Madame Sarah Bernhardt!”

At the time, this made no impression upon me. But later, when I heard of the relationship between Sarah and my grandfather, and even later, when I read the astonishing letters in which she called him “Doctor God,” I would say to my companions, with a certain satisfaction, that I, too, had known Sarah Bernhardt.”Claude Bourdet, francesamiller.com

Dr. Pozzi had saved Sarah Bernhardt’s life when he removed an ovarian cyst. They subsequently became lovers and lifelong friends.

Roman Sienkievicz, the great grandson of Dr. Pozzi, graduated from Berklee College of Music and today composes and teaches music outside of Paris. Roman and I met while students at Berklee. I also studied music theory with Robert Cogan at the New England Conservatory and became close with both him and his wife, Pozzi Escot. Pozzi is Roman’s cousin and a well-known music theorist and composer of contemporary music.

It’s interesting to note that the portrait of Dr. Pozzi was privately owned and not seen by the public until 1990 when it was purchased by the Armand Hammer Museum.


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