3/29/2008

Portrait of the week - Julie, daughter of Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun

Julie - painted 1786 by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun.

This is a portrait of the daughter to the famous French painter Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun. She painted both Marie Antoinette and other noble men and women and the French aristocracy before the revolution of 1789 and later many of the Russian aristocracy - when she spent a few years in St Petersburg. But she also did many self-portraits, and a lot of portraits that included her daughter, and only child, Jeanne Julie Louise (1780-1819), and six portraits of just the daughter - including this one.

This picture portrays a just six years old girl, but as was common at this time this is not shown in the clothing that the child is wearing. Her green dress could just as well have been worn by an adult and the white shawl other the chest is typical of the time, at least when it came to day-time wear. It is obvious that this is a child that has no lack of money when it comes to her wardrobe. The portrait is sweet, complete with the rosy cheeks of a typical rococo-woman and the viewer is instantly drawn to the face of Julie, but it's the face shown in the mirror - a mirror that according to the laws of logic should reflect the eyes of the viewer and not the child. But without this mirror we wouldn't see her face - we would not see her expression.

Julie was the great joy and comfort to her mother, she took the daughter to Russia when the Revolution came. But the close bonds between mother and daughter didn't last. When Julie was 20 she announced her intention to marry Gaetan Nigris, a man of whom her mother did not approve. She paid for the daughter's wedding and dowry - but after that the relationship between mother and daughter rapidly evaporate. Both mother and daughter would later return to Paris, in 1805, but lived separate lives - the mother now earning big money from her painting while the daughter lived in poverty, her husband having left her. The mother gave no financial aid to the daughter, stating in her auto-biography that she did not approve of her daughters friends. In 1819 Julie died, possibly from pneumonia.

3 comments:

juno-magic said...

What a beautiful picture and what a sad story. I wonder why the mother wouldn't forgive her daughter ...

Artemise said...

I loooove this blog! I'm not exactly an adult yet, but I love XVIII and XIX women history, fashion and art. I love Bigée Le Brun paintings. I'm so glad I know this blog, I found this by pure luck and I'll keep visiting it. Thank you and keep up the good work! :-)

DameBoudicca said...

Thank you, I will do my best! :-)