Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Salon: A Favorite Painting or Two.....or Three!

Self-portrait in Straw Hat


Madame Mole-Raymond

Lady Folding A Letter (Comtesse de Ceres)


Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette

The Duchess of Caderousse

Madame DuBarry

Alexander Charles Emmanuel de Crussol Florensac

Empress Yelitzavita-Alekseyevna

Self-portrait with daughter.

Portrait of a Young Woman.

Theresa, Countess Kinsky (Detail)

Charles Alexander de Calonne

Comtesse de la Charte


Self-portrait (Detail)

Marie-Louise-Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun (1755 - 1842) was an artist self-trained in the Rococo and neo-Classic styles. Her Self Portrait in Straw Hat (see first painting at the top) is one of my all time favorite paintings, so I thought it was about time to display some of her other gorgeous work.

According to Wikipedia, Vigee-Lebrun was portrait painter to Marie Antoinette as well as the most famous female painter of the 18th century. (I have one of Vigee-Lebrun's Marie Antoinette prints framed in an absurd gold faux rococo frame. It hangs in my living room just for the fun of it.)

Of course it would be nice if Vigee-Lebrun were considered one of the most famous painters - period - but you can't escape categorization, most especially if you're a woman in the arts.

At any rate, by the time she was in her teens, Vigee-Lebrun was already painting professionally. She married in 1776 and eventually came to the attention of Marie Antoinette. She painted many portraits of the Queen and her family and became known as the Queen's official portraitist. Unfortunately, once the French Revolution burst upon the scene, Vigee-Lebrun, a staunch Royalist, was forced to flee the country with her daughter.

She lived and worked in Italy, Austria and Russia where her training and ability to deal with aristocratic clients came in handy.

She was eventually welcomed back to France during the reign of Emperor Napoleon I.

The main thing I like about Vigee-Lebrun's work is her ability to show the spark of life within her subjects. Those faces are anything but bland or blank. Despite the elaborate dress, wigs and outlandish feathers and glitter, these are 'real' people of the time.

The attention to detail in the hair and clothing also tells us a great deal about the look of the 18th century.

To learn more about Marie Elizabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun, please use this link. From there you will be able to link to more of her work as well.


  1. Great pictures!

    My favourite is Self-portrait with daughter. At a first glance, it almost seems as if the girl is part of the mother.

  2. Yes, Vigee-Lebrun painted quite a few self-portraits, some with children, some without. I don't blame her, she was a beautiful woman.

  3. Vigee-Lebrun's works are simply gorgeous. No question, she was the best portraitist to emerge from the French "salon" style of the late 18th century.

    The portrait of Theresa, Countess Kinsky that you have in this post is at the Norton Simon Museum. So, I get to see it on a regular basis. It's a beautiful painting.

  4. Yvette, I love it when portraits look as fresh and vibrant as Vigee-Lebrun's work! They're not stuffy or dreary; as you say, these portraits really have spark and life. Thanks for sharing these!

  5. I agree with Dorte H - the mother-daughter portrait is a classic. The portrait, especially the face, is the most difficult to draw and paint. What of self-portrait!

  6. I too have a Vigee-Lebrun portrait of Marie Antoinette hanging on a wall. Not like the elaborate one you have (don't make me green with envy!), but a tiny one of Marie and her children that is on the wall above the door to my dining room. Years go by and I forget it's there and then someone will say, "Oh, what a lovely little picture."

    Thank you for posting these beautiful portraits. It's sad to think how many of those subjects ended up on the guillotine.

  7. That is so interesting, I would like to own Madame Du Barry.
    Thank you for sharing and teaching us, I always learn something on your posts.


  8. LJR: I think I've said this before: Lucky you! To live (or work) near a great museum is a rare priviledge.

    I'm wondering if I've seen any of these at the Met year ago. Not sure if they have of her work.

    Oh, they must. I'll check when I have a moment.

  9. Yes, that's the word I missed, Dorian: Vibrant. Exactly! I love these paintings. :)

    I'm glad you're sharing my enthusiasm.

  10. Prashant: I'm assuming she looked in a mirror while painting her self-portraits. They really are among her more beautiful work.

  11. Deb: Here's how that elaborate portrait found its way onto my wall. :)

    I was walking my dog one day in town and passed my favorite 'antique' place and there in the corner of a window, half-hidden by something else was this gilt curly-kew frame sticking out.

    I moved some stuff out of the way and there was this portrait of Marie Antoinette. When I lifted it, it weighed nothing. Made my think it was a stage prop of some sort.

    25 bucks, frame included.

    You can't beat that. I rearranged one of my living room walls and hung the portrait even though I have nothing else (beside the little angel) even remotely rococo. HA!

    I love looking at it.

    As for the guillotine, well, at least Vigee-Librun escaped.

  12. Oh, my dear Yvonne, you're so welcome. I'm just glad you dropped by and enjoyed the post.

  13. Lovely, lovely, lovely! So many men painters of that era, so few women -- this one was special!

  14. Lovely paintings! Thanks for bringing Vigee-Lebrun to my attention!

  15. Vigee-Lebrun is one of my favorite artists, and it's no wonder that she was Marie Antoinette's, as well. One thing that I think is interesting about her portraits is that she accentuates the beauty of her women and the gravitas of her male sitters. I do believe in this sort of way, all successful court painters were to an extent pyschologists.

  16. Becky: Yes, we agree. This is lovely work done by an obvious master.

  17. willow: You're welcome. :) Glad you enjoyed the post.

  18. Mark: Psychologists, yes. I agree. A great point.

    But if you'll notice the male faces in close-up, you'll see that these two in particular, had some humor in their expressions. They really are two of my favorite paintings of men of that time.

  19. Love your absurd rococo frame! :-) I saw a few of Vigee Le Brun's portraits in person while in Paris and visiting Versailles. She had a talent of making everyone she painted look like such a nice person! Quite a talent!

  20. Lauren: Yes, exactly. She painted them as people we'd want to know.

    Lucky you to have seen her work at Versailles. I am SO green witn envy. :)

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  22. She's one of my favorite artists. I have a biography of her in my library, and the Phoenix Art Museum has one of her paintings.

  23. One of my favorites as well, Cathy. I think I'd like to read her biography next year.


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