|Self Portrait with Cerise Ribbons, 1782.|
When my mother was in town last week we went to the Met to see the new show Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France. I highly recommend it if you are in New York, or even if you aren’t in New York but can get here by May 15 to see it. It is the first retrospective of the French painter Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842), the artist who was most famously known as the preferred portraitist of Marie Antoinette. Many of the 80 works on display are on loan from Versailles, as well as other museums and private collectors from around the world, including Queen Elizabeth II!
|This 1778 portrait of Marie Antoinette starts the show. It is HUGE!|
The five portraits of Marie Antoinette on display are life-size, in gorgeous color, and amazing to see in person. My favorite was the one above, at the beginning of the show. I love how it seemed to be bathed in a kind of golden light. You can’t help but be drawn to it instantly when you enter the gallery! None of the Marie Antoinette portraits are to be photographed (though I saw some people sneaking pictures on their phones); neither are any of the portraits that came from Versailles, such as the pictures of Marie Antoinette’s children, the Madame Royale and the Dauphin, or the portrait of Marie Antoinette’s close friend the Duchesse de Polignac, below. I took this picture before I saw the “No Photos” symbol (whoops) but of course I had to share it with you!
|The Duchesse de Polignac in a Straw Hat, 1782.|
|Madame Royale and the Dauphin Seated in the Garden, 1784.|
I loved this portrait of Marie Antoinette’s first two children, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte and Louis Joseph. Look at the detailing of little Madame Royale’s dress! This photo, and the one above of Marie Antoinette in court dress, are courtesy of the Met.
|Madame Jacques François Le Sèvre, 1774-78 (Vigée Le Brun’s mother).|
I was very impressed by Vigée Le Brun’s artistic gifts, especially when I saw in the gallery text that she was largely self-taught. Let me tell you, that lady could paint lace, ruffles, ribbons, feathers, fur, velvet, pearls, moiré silk, satin, and stripes! I could understand why Marie Antoinette wanted her for her personal portraits since all of the Queen’s clothes (and everyone else’s for that matter) are rendered lovingly and so well in paint!
|The Comtesse Du Barry in a Straw Hat, 1781.|
The Comtesse Du Barry was the mistress of King Louis XV, who was the grandfather of Louis XVI. Du Barry was executed at the guillotine during the Reign of Terror, just as Marie Antoinette was.
|Detail of Comte de Vaudreuil, 1784, a private patron of Vigée Le Brun.|
The gentleman above was rumored to be the lover of the Duchesse de Polignac and through her tried to gain favor with the Queen, who did not like him or his ambition!
|The Maréchale-Comtesse de Mailly in Van Dyck Costume, 1783.|
This lady was another member of Marie Antoinette’s inner circle. According to the gallery text she was in masquerade for this 1783 portrait, since this was known as Spanish Costume. I just loved the striping effect of the slashed sleeves and the color of the feather and ribbon on her hat!
|I love the slit sleeves and the color in this one.|
|Madame Grand, 1783.|
Because of her association with the Queen, Vigée Le Brun was forced to go into exile during the terrible times of the French Revolution. She escaped from France in 1789, and continued to paint in Italy, Vienna, Russia, and Germany before finally returning home.
I found myself very drawn to the pictures she painted of her only child, her daughter Julie. She clearly adored her and she was a beautiful girl.
|Julie Le Brun Looking in a Mirror, 1786.|
|Julie Le Brun as a Bather, 1792.|
|Julie Le Brun as Flora, 1799.|
I hope you get a chance to see this show. Let me know what you think of it if you do. The exhibit will move to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario this summer, opening in early June.
Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France is on view at the Met until May 15, 2016.