Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842)
was one of history's most successful
and prolific portrait painters. In 1778, she was
commissioned to paint Marie-Antoinette (Queen
to King Louis XVI of France) who became a close
friend and the subject of more than 25 portraits
by the artist.
Greatly inspired by the work of Peter Paul Rubens,
Vigée Le Brun adopted his compositions
as well as his technique to achieve polished portraits
of European royalty and aristocracy. This portrait
shows her adaptation of Rubens’ vibrant
colour palette. Painted on an oak panel, the texture
of the wood grain shows through the layered paint.
The brilliant colours red, green, blue and black,
as well as the twisty pose and low viewpoint,
give the image a sense of monumentality and drama
which engages the viewer and flatters the sitter.
Consider the portrait in relation to its time:
it was made in 1789, the year of the outbreak
of the French Revolution, which soon after forced
Vigée Le Brun to flee France.