Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755 – Paris 1842).
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 is be painting her daughter, Julie (1780-1819). This is an autograph variant of a work first painted in Rome between 1789 and 1790, in which Vigée Le Brun depicts herself painting the portrait of her great patron, Marie-Antoinette. Commissioned by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, that work was presented by the artist to the Uffizi, Florence, and was hung in the Vasari Corridor in 1791, but not before this variant, commissioned by Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (1730-1803), was made. Although Vigée Le Brun painted a considerable number of self-portraits, it is only in two of them - the Uffizi example and the one presented by her to the Academy of Fine Arts, St Petersburg (now in the Hermitage, inv.no. ГЭ-7586) - that the artist depicted herself in the act of painting. The present portrait is recorded in Vigée Le Brun's Memoirs; referring to her first stay in Rome in 1789, she writes: 'Aussitôt après mon arrivée à Rome, je fis mon portrait pour la Gallerie de Florence...je peignis ensuite...une copie de celui que je destinais à Florence, qui vint me demander Lord Bristol', and 'Le portrait de Lord Bristol lui-même jusqu’aux genoux'. She would paint a portrait of Hervey in Naples in 1790 (NT 851764). How the self-portrait came to be at Ickworth is unknown. First recorded in 1838, it is neither in the 1819 inventory of the stored contents of the St James's Square house, nor in the 1st Marquess's inventory of paintings at Ickworth of 1837.
Commissioned by Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (1730-1803); at Ickworth by 1838; 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.
Ickworth, The Bristol Collection (acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1956)
Marks and inscriptions
Bottom left: L. E. Vigée Le Brun/ Naples 1791
Makers and roles
Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755 – Paris 1842)., artist
The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, 1985 - 1986, no.507
Vigee-Lebrun, Marie-Louise-Elizabeth, Souvenirs, two vols., Paris, 1867, Vol.I, pp.161-162; Vol. II, p.366 Farrer 1908 Edmund Farrer, Portraits in Suffolk Houses (West), 1908, no. 129 Helm 1915 William Henry Helm, Vigee-Lebrun 1755-1842. Her Life, Works and a Catalogue of Pictures, 4 Vols, London, 1915, pp.114, 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) Baillio and Salmon 2016: Joseph Baillio and Xavier Salmon, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, exh.cat., Grand Palais, Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada, Ottowa, Paris 2016, no. 5, p. 88; no. 104, p. 242. Rowell 2018 Christopher Rowell, ‘Women Artists, Collectors and Patrons’, National Trust Historic Houses & Collections Annual, 2018, pp. 9, 11