An affectation which artists, art-lovers and persons of taste have been united in condemning, and which finds no precedent among the Ancients, is that in SMILING Madame Vigee-Le Brun shows her teeth.*
Memoires Secrets, 1787, court scandal sheet
Although French artist Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun’s glamorous self portrait of 1782 shown above is not the one criticized in Memoires secrets, she is definitely smiling. Do you see any indication of her teeth?
Vigee-Le Brun (1755-1842) was Marie Antoinette’s favorite portrait painter and, like her patron, attracted palace gossip. The two women, the monarch and the commoner, were both born the same year and reportedly had a personal relationship. Le Brun’s child Julie, too, was around the same age as the queen’s eldest son, the Dauphin; she also created a poignant portrait of the youngest royal daughter, Sophie, who died in infancy.
Le Brun did survive the French Revolution, fleeing from Paris the same night Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were arrested. She eventually returned to France after 12 years of wandering across Europe.
*Quote regarding Memoires secrets is from The Great Nation by Colin Jones, published by Penguin, 2002.
Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun, Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat, after 1782, National Gallery, London, UK
The above image is used solely for educational purposes.
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