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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

Order this image

Collection

Ickworth, Suffolk (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Ickworth, Suffolk, East of England, National Trust

NT 851782

Caption

This is one of many self-portraits of the artist and is almost identical to one that is now in the Uffizi in Florence. The Ickworth self-portrait was commissioned by Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (1730-1803), whose portrait she had painted in 1790. Bearing her teeth and in the act of painting, Vigée Le Brun’s portraits were fairly radical for the time. Prior to her exhibitions, icons such as Mona Lisa preferred to remain tight-lipped as flashing your teeth was seen as rude and lower class.

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 adoringly 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

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