Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

French, 1755-1842

Elisabeth is placed in front of imagery that she often painted: mothers and children. In this context she looks like the girl next door. This innocent face played an important role in the presentation of the public self of Elisabeth. To be a woman painter in 18th-century France she had to play both the role of the beautiful socialite and develop painting skills that were worthy of the French court. She parlayed her gifts for these roles into her position as the court painter for Marie Antoinette. Elisabeth is known for her tenacity—of the type one has come to expect from anyone who survived, and even thrived, in revolutionary France. Whether she was arranging to be admitted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture as a history painter, or she was citing her need for an international education to avoid the guillotine, she did not miss an opportunity to turn any situation to her advantage.

Mary D. Sheriff, The Exceptional Woman (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996) 74, 223.

Original Works Referenced

Baroness Anna Stroganova
with her Son
1795-1801
St. Petersburg
State Hermitage Museum

Self-portrait
1790
Florence
Galleria degli Uffizi

Self-portrait with Julie
1787
Paris
Musée du Louvre