Thursday, January 31, 2008

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Madame Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was court portrait painter at Versailles during the reign of Louis XVI. She painted Marie-Antoinette many times. In her Memoirs, she describes the queen thus:
Her arms were superb, her hands small and perfectly formed, and her feet charming. She had the best walk of any woman in France, carrying her head erect and with a dignity that stamped her queen in the midst of her whole court; and yet this majestic mien in no wise diminished the sweetness and gentleness of her expression. Her features were not regular; she had inherited the long and narrow oval peculiar to the Austrian race- her eyes, almost blue in color, were rather small - her nose was delicate and pretty, and her mouth not too large, although her lips were somewhat thick. But the most remarkable thing about her face was her brilliant complexion. I have never seen any so dazzling.

Here is a link to the gallery of portraits of the queen painted by Madame Vigée Le Brun, as well as one to a biography of the artist.

Charles Blanc in Histoire Des Peintres wrote:
As a painter Madame Vigee Le Brun belongs wholly and distinctly to the eighteenth century; that is to say, to that period in the history of French art which was brought to an abrupt termination by the works of Louis David. So long as she followed the counsels of Joseph Vernet her pencil evinced a certain suppleness and her brush a certain force; but unfortunately she too often sought especially was this the case in her later works - to imitate Greuze, and weakened the likeness to her models by an exaggerated mistiness. She became the fashion so early in her life that she was debarred from any thorough study, and she was too frequently satisfied with a clever suggestiveness in her portraits.

Without estimating her so leniently as she was in her own day estimated by the French Academy, we nevertheless must needs assign Madame Le Brun an honorable place in the history of painting in France; for, notwithstanding revolutions and reforms, she continued to pursue, as long as she lived, the dainty and delicate art of Watteau, of Nattier, and of Fragonard-an art at once graceful and intrinsically French.-From the French
To the right is a sketch that Madame Vigée Le Brun did of Marie-Antoinette after the queen's death, showing her going to heaven, palm in hand, where Louis and the two children who died are awaiting her. The artist, who was a friend of the queen, was too overcome with grief to finish the picture. Share

6 comments:

Sanctus Belle said...

Beautiful...

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, I would like to have seen the completed portrait.

julygirl said...

I have often wondered if she received recognition from the established authorities in the French art world.

Alexandra said...

One of my favorite French artists.

Dymphna said...

One of my favorite artists. In fact the very first piece of art I ever bought was a copy of her self portrait. I think I was 12.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I'm still planning to see her landscape at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Thanks for this post. Very interesting.