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SEAN'S FAMILY BOND; Star takes a back seat as the children jet in for Micheline's first exhibition of paintings.

IT was an emotional moment for the Connery clan when the 007 star's wife stepped into the limelight at the opening of her first- ever art exhibition.

Scotland's most famous son, Sean Connery, took a back seat as wife Micheline showed a stunning set of paintings of her superstar husband and family.

The portfolio of 14 works was on display for the first time at the National Museum of Women in Washington DC.

Although nervous, petite Micheline need not have worried.

For the couple's four children from previous marriages and their respective wives and husbands had jetted into the US capital to attend the unique evening and lend their support.

The French-born artist unveiled the collection at a fund-raising gala opening, watched proudly by her three children, eldest son Olivier, Micha and Stephane.

Stephane, who was with wife Tania Lowe, Olivier and wife Diana Garbe, and Micha happily posed for pictures for the family album.

Sean's only son, Jason - from the actor's first marriage to actress Diane Cilento - was also there to lend his support to his stepmum on the special night.

Guests watched as the family mingled with friends and neighbours of the famous couple, from the exclusive Lyford Cay community in Nassau, Bahamas, who had also flown in to show their support.

An ecstatic Micheline said: "I've had such a hectic life with Sean that, until now, I've had no time to show or sell any of my work.

"I'm very excited and a little nervous about the whole thing."

Sean, who decided to dump his favourite kilt for a more sombre dark suit and tie, introduced guests to his talented wife.

Micheline, wearing a cream trouser suit and clutching a glass of whisky, made a special toast to her extended family who had made the long journey to be with her.

A clearly proud Sean - who had charted a private plane from his latest film set in Canada to make it to the opening - was more than delighted to let her enjoy her moment of glory.

Her stunning portraits include a incredible picture of Connery sleeping in an armchair, holding the couple's snoozing cat.

And an unusual 1985 portrait of Jason wearing sunglasses, with the image of two young women reflected on to them, provoked a few raised eyebrows.

As wife Mia Sara smiled, Jason said: "The babes weren't mine, but they are very nice."

Micheline abandoned a successful career as an artist when she met Sean in Morocco in 1970 and travelled the world accompanying him to film shoots.

But she continued to paint privately and asked Sean to sit for her often.

She said: "I like painting Sean very much, showing the changes over the years. He still has a great face. He has just aged so well."

Other guests, including American Secretary of Defence, William Cohen, and Elizabeth Taylor's former husband, John Warner, agreed that the Connery clan had another star in its midst.

Sculptor and guest John Safer said: She's a heck of a good painter and I'm pleased that the museum agrees with me."

After the fund-raiser, the family went on to Washington's Kennedy Centre where they watched a production of a French play, Art.

Micheline bought the American rights to the production years ago after seeing it performed in her home country.

It's another first for Micheline, who is credited as a producer of the award-winning stage play, which took Broadway by storm.

The play itself intrigued Micheline because it features three men who row over a supposed "valuable" painting which has a blank white canvas.

But Micheline was never going to steal all the limelight from her husband.

At a later ambassador's dinner for the family, one guest collared Sean and demanded to know the reason why all Connery's James Bond successors had failed in the role.

The dour Scot barked back: "If you can't think of one, I certainly can't."

The tanned superstarand now grandfather - consistently voted one of the world's sexiest men - will celebrate his 70th birthday in August.

Friends say he is thoroughly enjoying watching Micheline take her turn at fame. One said: "He'd never give up working, but he's never been comfortable with the whole celebrity thing.

"He's always loved the fact that Micheline is a strong woman, who has got a mind and a life of her own."

After the bash, Connery and Micheline flew back to Toronto where he is shooting his latest blockbuster.

The Edinburgh-born star is making a movie called Finding Forester, about a reclusive sports writer who embarks on a love affair with a 16-year old basketball player.

A guest said: "All the great and the good of Washington turned out for the night. Many people were expressing a great deal of interest in buying some of her work.

"Micheline appeared quite stunned by all the attention and Sean was trying to remain as unobtrusive as possible.

"But he was encouraging her to chat. Many of the guests were intrigued about when she had done the paintings and why.

"The pictures leave you in no doubt who her famous husband is. He and the rest of the family are subjects in almost all of the 14 portraits."

Stephane & Tania Cosman Connery

THE London-based art dealer is Micheline's youngest son from her first marriage. Stephane, 36, was just six when his mum met Sean and divorced his father.

Connery is very close to all of Micheline's children but especially Stephane. They play golf together regularly with Sean's son Jason.

He said: "I very much consider him my father. I don't know if Sean knows how proud I am of him. He is not a very demonstrative person, but he's always supportive and that's exactly what you need in a father."

Wife Tania and Stephane presented Sean with his first grandchild in November 1995. Mariecha Cosman

ART lover Mariecha, known to friends as Micha, is the most publicity shy of all the Connery clan.

Micheline said: "Mariecha and my older son Olivier love Sean dearly. Our greatest joy is to spend Christmas together... joking and dancing every evening."

Now a mum, Micha lives in America and regularly stays with the couple in their luxury home in the Bahamas

Sean Connery & wife Micheline

THE 007 star was at the peak of his career when he met petite French-born Micheline Roquebrune in Morocco, during the summer of 1970.

Micheline spoke little English and Sean spoke no French. Although both were married to other people, they were smitten with each other. Micheline has said: "It was love at first sight."

The couple were married 25 years ago. They don't celebrate their anniversary, but the day they met on March 10, 1970.

Connery, who will be 70 in August, said: Micheline is my soulmate and the love of my life."

Olivier Cosman & wife Diana

THE oldest of Micheline's three children, Olivier is a highly successful businessman and a close confidante of Sean.

He is a superb golfer and plays with step-father Sean on a regular basis.

The actor, who was badly stung in a string of difficult financial deals in the 1970s, regularly calls his step-son for advice about investments.

Olivier, married to Diana, has said: "He and mum are a great love match.

"She travels everywhere with him, otherwise they wouldn't have a relationship.

"They are a wonderful family. I feel very lucky to be a Connery."

Jason Connery & wife Mia Sara

JASON, 37, is Connery's only child from his marriage to Australian Diane Cilento.

He followed his father on to the stage and screen, and the pair have a very close bond.

The dad-of-two is also very attached to Micheline and is best friends with Stephane, her youngest son.

Jason has said of his dad: "I don't think of him as a very famous actor," he said. "To me, he's dad ... and we are both in a business in which he has done extraordinarily well.

"Dad wrestles challenges into submission. Most of the things he ever wanted to do, he's done - that's the example he set us."
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Author:Hughes, Lorna; Hall, Maggie
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 30, 2000
Words:1342
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