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Self-portrait

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755 – Paris 1842).

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1791 (signed and dated)

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

990 x 810 mm

Place of origin

Naples

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Collection

Ickworth, Suffolk (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Smoking Room, Ickworth House, Ickworth, Suffolk, East of England, National Trust

NT 851782

Caption

Madame Vigée-Lebrun painted a considerable number of Self-portraits, the most celebrated of which are the original of this one in the Uffizi, and that of 1786, of her embracing her daughter on her lap, now in the Louvre. This is an autograph variant of the portrait in the Uffizi, painted in Rome in 1790, and presented by the artist to the gallery. This was painted at the request of the Grand Duke of Tuscany; it was begun in December 1789 and finished by March 1790, as announced by letters from Menageot, the Director of the French Academy in Rome, to d’Angiviller. It was only despatched, however, at the end of August 1791 - no doubt to allow the painting of the present replica. It is significant that only for the Florentine Gallery of Self-portraits, and for other fellow-professionals of the St Petersburg Academy did Mme Vigée-Lebrun show herself in the act of painting.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Self-portrait by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755 – Paris 1842), signed, bottom left: L. E. Vigée Le Brun/ Naples 1791. A half-length portrait of the artist, turned to the left, gazing at the spectator, seated, in the act painting on a canvas supported on an easel. She holds a palette and brushes in her left hand and is painting with her right hand. She wears a black dress with white frilly cuffs, with red sash tied at the back, white frilly lace collar and white turban over tightly curly hair. She appears to be painting her daughter, Julie,the subject of several adoring maternal portraits by and with her mother, but ultimately the cause of great grief to her. Greyish background. This is an autograph variant of the portrait in the Uffizi, painted in Rome in 1790, and presented by the artist to the Florence gallery. An outline of the head of Marie-Antoinette appears on the canvas. Another version is at the Watford Museum ('The Artist at Work') and a copy in the Royal Agricultural University Collection, Cirencester.

Provenance

Commissioned by Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (1730-1803); how this, almost alone among his pictures, came to be at Ickworth in 1838 (it is neither in France & Banting’s 1819 inventory of the stored contents of the St James’s Square house - nor in the 1st Marquess’s 1837 inventory list of paintings at Ickworth) is not at the moment explicable; Part of the Bristol Collection. Loaned to the National Trust in 1956 under the auspices of the National Land Fund, later the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and then transferred to the National Trust in 1983.

Credit line

Ickworth, The Bristol Collection (acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1956)

Makers and roles

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755 – Paris 1842)., artist

Exhibition history

The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, 1985 - 1986, no.507

References

Farrer 1908 Edmund Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), 1908, no. 129 Vigee-Lebrun, Marie-Louise-Elizabeth, Souvenirs, two vols., Paris, 1867, Vol.I, pp.161-162; Vol. II, p.366 Helm 1915 William Henry Helm, Vigee-Lebrun 1755-1842. Her Life, Works and a Catalogue of Pictures, 4 Vols, London, 1915, pp.114 and 206-207 Decker 1984 Douwes Decker, Portraits à l’Huile de Mme Elizabeth Louise Vigee-LeBrun, 1984, no.255 The National Trust Magazine, Number 94 Autumn 2001, p. 27 (Joan Bakewell: A favourite painting) Rowell 2018 Christopher Rowell, ‘Women Artists, Collectors and Patrons’, National Trust Historic Houses & Collections Annual, 2018, pp. 9, 11

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