Maison Tavel is Geneva's oldest still-standing house, dating back to the eleventh century. Due to the small size of Geneva's historic Vieux Ville and the fact that it costs nothing to get in, the house has been a regular spot on my Chateau Lockett Visitor tour.
Despite assuming a familiarity with the permanent exhibits, two pictures leapt out at me during the last visit.
The first lady was found in the kitchen, near the enormous wood fireplace. Portrait de la mere Lacroix, painted by Jean-Baptiste Bonjour around 1840.
She's no oil painting (tish boom) but her self satisfaction is as evident as her enjoyment of the restaurant meals she supposedly made with her husband.
There's no readily-available information on Mrs Lacroix or the painter in English, but the museum curator said that she was well known in Geneva for her homely and generous cooking. No argument there - the portrait depicts a woman who loves her work. And licking a ladle or two.
In the same room, but almost missed due to being placed in the doorway, was this one:
No, it's not Paul Simon in disguise, but La mere Robineau, poissonniere a Geneve a l'age 72 ans, painted in 1847. Hang about - la mere - Missus. With a mo and a goatee any hipster would be proud of.
Why did Monsieur Bonjour (hello...? Why is his surname 'Hello'?) paint her with such, um, honesty?
If she'd been Queen Anne - who had been described by her lady-in-waiting and supposed best friend Sarah Churchill as 'exceeding gross and corpulent' and was later buried in a square coffin - the artist would have merely made her slightly on the husky side and kept any uncomely features out of his mind and off the canvas.
But if you're a seventy two year old fishwife with good scaling skills and facial hair to make any 1970s action star envious, then every single imperfection is ripe for the painting. I felt sorry for her; this woman I'd never met who'd been born a couple of years before Captain Cook proudly plonked a flag of arrogant ownership in the sand of Sydney. On second thought, there seemed to be very few greys for someone entering their eighth decade on earth.
A few floors away was an enormous panoramic picture of La place du Molard en 1843. My first reaction was to scowl: this was the spot where my wallet had been stolen, so it harbored no nice memories for me. But, seeing as the picture was so large - at least three metres wide - it became apparent that the people in the street weren't just scenic fodder, but had been depicted extremely well, ensuring that famous Genevan personalities were deliberately featured.
And there, on the left, I saw her: la mere Robineau, at work. Black dress, white cap and that unmistakable goatee. This is merely the postcard I purchased before leaving, so you'll have to take my word for it that, in full size, Goatee Gal was instantly spotted.
Despite her pungent-smelling poisson pursuits and lowly origin, she was clearly a person of note in Geneva during the 19th Century. Apart from the old guy in the white Santa Claus beard on the far right, she had more facial hair than any other person in the painting, male or female.
Frustratingly, I was unable to find a single morsel of information on La mere Robineau or the artist. Was her portrait commissioned by a proud Monsieur Robineau or was she a figure of fun in the town, or famed for pursuits and deeds beyond gutting a guppy in record time ....?
I don't know. But I like her and reckon she'd have had some stories to tell.
..... she might also have brandished her knife ala Crocodile Dundee and scared away the pick pocket who fancied the contents of my handbag.....