Lot 136
  • 136

Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun

50,000 - 70,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun
  • Self Portrait in a turban
  • Pastel; oval


F. de Ribes-Christofle,
his sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 10-11 December 1928, lot 58 (as ‘Madame Vigée-Lebrun, par elle-même'), for Fr 31,000;
Mrs. Leny M. Glaser, New York;
her sale, New York, Parke-Bernet, 5 April 1947, lot 110, for $400;
with the London art trade,
where purchased by the family of the present owner


Le Gaulois Artistique, “Revue des Ventes: Vente de la collection F. De Ribes Christofle”, vol. 3, 1929, p. 188;
N. Jeffares, Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, London 2006, p. 548, reproduced

Catalogue Note

This is one of only a very small number of self-portraits by Vigée Le Brun executed in the medium of pastel.  In fact, the artist had first trained as a pastellist, under the tutelage of her father, the successful pastel specialist Louis Vigée, but as her career progressed she increasingly turned to the presumably more lucrative activity of painting in oils.  As a result, far fewer pastels than oil paintings by Vigée Le Brun are known, and indeed Neil Jeffares only lists some three other self-portraits in this medium, the most famous of which are the exceptional pastel of 1789-90, in a New York private collection, and the 1801 profile self-portrait, in Rouen.1 

Vigée Le Brun used her own features as her subject with considerable regularity, and one can understand why; her beauty is well documented, not just through her own self-portraits but also in the portraits and written descriptions of others, and furthermore when an artist makes a self portrait, they have total free rein regarding pose, costume and attitude.  Here, in a way that is almost reminiscent of Rembrandt, she has chosen to depict herself in a dramatic, exotic turban.  

This pastel will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Vigée Le Brun by Joseph Baillio, who dates it to circa 1800-1814.  In 1802, Mme. Vigée Le Brun returned to Paris, having fled the city in 1789 at the start of the Revolution, living latterly in Russia.  She did not, though, stay in France all that long, perhaps for personal reasons, and much of the following decade was spent travelling in England, the Low Countries, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and elsewhere, punctuated with relatively brief visits to France in between these various journeys.

A work of great rarity and quality, this fine self-portrait is a fascinating record of the life and career of one of the most accomplished and colourful artistic figures active in France around the time of the Revolution.

1. J. Baillio and X. Salmon (eds.), Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, exhib. cat., Paris, Grand Palais, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Ottawa, Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada, 2015-16, cat. nos. 4 and 7