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
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