Here is one of Labille-Guiard’s nine students seen looking at this famous woman artist’s canvases.
Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond
A woman researcher has been trying to find out more about “La Belle Rosemond”. She claims she has spent almost two days googling. No doubt she ransacked this blog, and come upon the Rosamond Family genealogy. Here is how Gottschalk Rosemondt affixed his name to his book. He was the Master of Louvain, and the Falcon Art college. He was a Swan Brethren. He may have known the artist, Bosch.
I am now considering authoring a Historic Romance titled ‘La Belle Rosemond’ which is based upon my theory the two women in the painting by Labille-Guiard’s “Self-portrait with Two Students” are the Dubarrys, mother and daughter, who worked in the same shop with Labille-Guiard, and were members of a secret society ‘La Belle Rose of the World’. This shop was a front. They made wigs and hats for the Royals.
As a profound coincidence, and a demonstration of Syncronistic Art, Virginia’s ancestor, Louis-Auguste-Victor de Bourmont attempted to put Madame Du Barry on the Bourbon throne.
What I suspect, is these roses, and wreaths – crowns of roses – denote a special bloodline associated with the French Royal Academy. This is why I have the right to pursue anyone, and any lead, that takes me into the Labyrinth de La Toilette de Rosemond. That LaBille-Guiard did a portrait of Robespeirre, suggests there was a concealed Rose Cult that drove the French Revolution run by the Deists who celebrated the Cult of the Supreme Being. Did this cult come to America? Did the Deists create a Rose Line in America?
the Cult of the Supreme Being. The notion of the Supreme Being was based on ideas that Jean-Jacques Rousseau had outlined in The Social Contract. A nationwide “Festival of the Supreme Being” was held on 8 June (which was also the Christian holiday of Pentecost).
“La belle Rosemond” may have been the prettiest of these “jolies demoiselles”, and she was selected with Mlle Capet for Mme Labille-Guiard’s famous Autoportrait peignant avec deux élèves.”
A day or so ago, I promised posts about the three women in Labille-Guiard’s “Self-portrait with Two Students.” Here I have been cruising long, relishing the fact that SO many women artists are available on the internet now… and then, bam! I have come upon a virtual void of information about Marie Maguerite Carreaux de Rosemond, the young woman who appears with the green hair ribbon in the portrait pictured below. Here is, literally, the only bit I’ve found about her during a search of several days, and sadly, the writer of her own time comments upon her looks more so than her work!!! 😡
“Mlle Carreaux, de Rosemond, or Carraux de Rozemont, was one of Mme Labille-Guiard’s nine female pupils who made such an impression at the Expositions de la jeunesse. The critics praised her work together with that of Mlles Capet and Alexandre, but Mlle Capet was the clear winner on talent. “La belle Rosemond” may have been the prettiest of these “jolies demoiselles”, and she was selected with Mlle Capet for Mme Labille-Guiard’s famous Autoportrait peignant avec deux élèves (1785). She also appears in a pen and ink sketch (occupying the corner of a sheet with a Madonna and Child, Fordham University) by John Trumbull, who visited Labille-Guiard’s studio in Paris in 1786. She married the engraver Charles-Clément Balvay (1756–1822), known as Jean-Guillaume Bervic, in 1788, and died later that year in the galleries of the Louvre (Journal de Paris, 17.XI.1788). We do not know if Mlle Rosemond worked in pastel, although her training makes this probable.” —Source:http://www.pastellists.com/Articles/Carreaux.pdf
Jeanne Bécu was born at Vaucouleurs, in the present-day Meuse department inLorraine, France, as the illegitimate daughter of Anne Bécu, a woman of enticing beauty, whose occupation was a seamstress. Jeanne’s father was possibly Jean Baptiste Gormand de Vaubernier, a friar known as frère Ange
At the age of fifteen Jeanne left the convent as she had “come of age”. For some reason – possibly due either to La Frédérique’s jealousy of the former’s beauty or because Dumonceaux’s passion for Anne revived – both mother and daughter were thrown out.
As Mademoiselle Lange, Jeanne immediately became a sensation in Paris, building up a large aristocratic clientele. She had many lovers from the king’s ministers to his courtiers. The dashing yet old Maréchal de Richelieu became one of her recurring lovers.
President: Royal Rosamond Press Co.
Here is the record of laws passed in Rougemont, called, Rozemont, when the Habsburgs d’Autriche came to live in Rougemont Castle and rule the Alsace. In this document we find the mention of a Sergeant, who is like a Sheriff who carried out the rulings of the nine judges of Rozemont.
Lachapelle under Chaux which is aujourd?hui l?une more significant
communes of the Canton of Giromagny was in Xè century a small hamlet
provided d?une Chapelle and dependent on the Commune with Lime.
This small vault for a long time disappeared and of splendid harvests
mature on its site, but the name of Chaperotte (small vault) remained
with cettee part of the Communal Territory to perpetrate the memory
of it. In 1024 Lachapelle under Chaux was included/understood in the
Seigniory of Rozemont which belonged to the Counts de Montbéliard
jusqu?en 1332, time when it was reserved for Jeanne of Montbeliard,
marchioness of Bade… In 1347 it belonged to the goods of the house
d?Autriche in consequence of the marriage of the girl of Jeanne of
Montbeliard with l?Archiduc Albert and did not make return to France
Under the domination of the archdukes d?Autriche, the rights
concerning the pasture, l?affuage, the heating, sawing, the maronage
of the inhabitants of the valley of Rozemont, formed a species of
code known under the name of Coutumier of Rozemont. We give it
hereafter with l?ordonnance and the payment of l?Archiduc Ferdinand
gone back to 1557.
Old rights and habits of Rozemont
Usual of Rozemont
1 ” It must there have a justice established in Rozemont, which must
hold at the Lime village for all foreign and different people who
there will have to make, which justice must be made up d?un
Lieutenant which will reside in Rozemont and of nine judges who will
have to be able to consider causes as well civil as criminal. And s1
quelqu?un had to plead against another in front of icelle, says it
Lieutenant in the name of the Lord of Belfort after having ouï the
parts in their requests, answers will require, having the septre in
hand, known as to the nine judges their opinions and will let judge
without which those luy anticipate and well according to their good
judgement and then Lieutenant says it will pronounce their
sentences . ”
2 ” the known as justice of Rozemont would be considerée and
estimated like superior and that of the Lord, and then that the
justice of Rougegoutte is a low jurisdiction, call them while coming
will be presented by front that of known as Rozemont like also those
of Vézelois and estant Argiessant included/understood under that of
Rozemont, S?il if found parts burdened, it will call their sentences
by front the new judges of known as Rozemont .”
(2 September 1773 – 27 October 1846) emigrated from France soon after the outbreak of the French Revolution. A lifelong royalist, he fought with the counter-revolutionary Army of Condé for two years, then joined the insurrection in France from three more years before going into exile. He was arrested after assisting the Georges Cadoudal conspiracy, but escaped to Portugal.
In 1832 Marshal Bourmont took part in the rising of Caroline Ferdinande Louise, duchesse de Berry and on its failure fled to Portugal. He commanded the army of the absolutist monarch King Miguel during the Liberal Wars and after the victory of the constitutional party he retired to Rome. At the amnesty of 1840 he returned to France, where he died on 27 October 1846 at Freigné in Maine-et-Loire.
The Duchess of Berry and her first husband, Charles-Ferdinand d’Artois, were enthusiastic art collectors. Her sale of 1822 was novel for its catalogue which contained lithographic reproductions of all the works. Lithography, invented by Alois Senefelder, had only been fully described in 1818 in Vollstandiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerei, translated into French in 1819. The lithographs, produced by Isidore Laurent Deroy sparked an interest in the technique as a means for reproducing art.
61, it became a saleswoman in a clothing store located rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs , On the toilet. This trade belonged to Claude Edmé Labille, father of the future portraitist Adelaide Labille-Guiard . Jeanne Vaubernier then began to frequent the demimonde. The stunning beauty of the girl quickly pointed out. It seems clear that, like her mother, Jeanne has experienced lighter youth.
Her older sister, Félicité, whose date of birth is unknown, married the miniaturist Jean Antoine Gros, a notable painting collector, in 1764 in the Saint-Eustache parish of Paris. It is unknown whether Adélaïde kept in touch with Jean Antoine Gros, his second wife, the pastel artist Pierrette Madeleine Cecile Durant, or his son, the famous Napoleonic painterAntoine Jean Gros, following her sister’s death in 1768.
Though Labille-Guiard became a master at miniatures, pastels, and oil paintings, little is known about her training. Much of this lack of information is due to the practices of the time, which dictated that masters (who were predominantly male) should not take on female pupils, as society perceived that they would not be able to follow instruction alongside men.
During adolescence, Labille-Guiard studied miniature painting with the oil painterFrançois-Elie Vincent, a family friend. Vincent’s connections made it possible for her early works to be exhibited at the Académie de Saint-Luc. During this apprenticeship, she would meet her future husband, Vincent’s son François-André Vincent.
After marrying Louis-Nicolas Guiard in 1769, she apprenticed with the pastel masterQuentin de la Tour until de la Tour’s marriage in 1774. After the apprenticeship, she exhibited one of her pastels of a magistrate at the Académie de Saint-Luc. She would continue displaying her works at the Académie until it closed in 1776. After that, she would display her works at the Salon de la Correspondance.
At the age of twenty, Labille-Guiard married Nicolas Guiard, a clerk with the Receiver General of the Clergy of France. The marriage contract, signed 25 August 1769, acknowledged that Labille-Guiard was a professional painter at the Académie de Saint-Luc.
The couple separated in 1777, and by 27 July 1779, were officially separated. Both kept the property they had had prior to entering marriage, since separation of property already existed under the Old Regime. After Revolutionary legislation permitted, they divorced in 1793, but Labille-Guiard retained the name Guiard, and remains known to the art world as Labille-Guiard. Thereafter, she earned a living by teaching painting.
The Académie de Saint-Luc and the Salons up to 1782
Labille-Guiard was admitted to the Académie de Saint-Luc in 1769 by François-Elie Vincent when she was twenty years old. Her admission piece, a miniature, has since disappeared, and no descriptions or records of its existence have survived to this day. Through the Académie de Saint-Luc, which was notable for its numerous female members—it had 130 women by 1777—Labille-Guiard was able to practice art professionally.
She first exhibited her art in 1774 at the Académie de Saint-Luc’s Salon. After that exhibition, Labille-Guiard’s works would often be compared against those of Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, one of Labille-Guiard’s contemporaries and a fellow member of the Académie de Saint-Luc.
This show was so successful that the Royal Academy took offense, and with the backing of the monarchy, issued an edict in March 1776 abolishing “guilds, brotherhoods, and communities of arts and crafts”. The Académie de Saint-Luc closed its doors in 1777.
At that point, Labille-Guiard began to learn oil painting from her childhood friend François-André Vincent so she could apply to the Royal Academy, which required her to present at least one oil painting for admission.
After the closure of the Académie de Saint-Luc, Pahin de la Blanchisserie established the permanent fair, Salon de la Correspondance, in 1779. For a small fee, artists outside the Royal Academy could exhibit their works. One year after its opening in 1781, Labille-Guiard chose to display some of her pastels, including her self-portrait in pastel and oil portraits of her husband and Guillame Voiriot, a teacher at the Royal Academy, which were well received by critics.
Labille-Guiard’s talent as an oil painter and pastellist was quickly noticed, and with the help of François-André Vincent, who referred several of his friends in the Royal Academy to her for portraits, including Joseph-Marie Vien, the professor Bachelier, his friend Suvée, and the aforementioned Voiriot, she achieved national recognition and was accepted as a member of the Royal Academy.
Maximilien Robespierre was born in Arras, in the old French province of Artois. His family has been traced back to the 12th century in Picardy; some of his ancestors in the male line worked as notaries in the village of Carvin near Arras from the beginning of the 17th century. It has been suggested that he was of Irish descent, his surname possibly being a corruption of “Robert Speirs”. George Henry Lewes, Ernest Hamel, Jules Michelet, Alphonse de Lamartine, and Hilaire Belloc have all cited this theory although there appears to be little supporting evidence.
Robespierre’s desire for revolutionary change was not limited to the political realm. He opposed the power of the Catholic Church and the Pope, and especially was opposed to its celibacy policies. Having denounced the excesses of dechristianization, he sought to instill a spiritual resurgence in the French nation based on Deistbeliefs. Accordingly, on 7 May 1794, Robespierre supported a decree passed by the Convention that established an official religion, known historically as the Cult of the Supreme Being. The notion of the Supreme Being was based on ideas that Jean-Jacques Rousseau had outlined in The Social Contract. A nationwide “Festival of the Supreme Being” was held on 8 June (which was also the Christian holiday of Pentecost). The festivities in Paris were held in the Champ de Mars, which was renamed the Champ de la Réunion (“Field of Reunion”) for that day. This was most likely in honor of the Champ de Mars Massacre where the Republicans first rallied against the power of the Crown. Robespierre, who happened to be President of the Convention that week, walked first in the festival procession and delivered a speech in which he emphasised his concept of a Supreme Being:
Is it not He whose immortal hand, engraving on the heart of man the code of justice and equality, has written there the death sentence of tyrants? Is it not He who, from the beginning of time, decreed for all the ages and for all peoples liberty, good faith, and justice? He did not create kings to devour the human race. He did not create priests to harness us, like vile animals, to the chariots of kings and to give to the world examples of baseness, pride, perfidy, avarice, debauchery and falsehood. He created the universe to proclaim His power. He created men to help each other, to love each other mutually, and to attain to happiness by the way of virtue.
While for some it was an excitement to see him at his finest, many other leaders involved in the Festival agreed that Robespierre had taken things a bit too far. Multiple sources state that Robespierre came down the mountain in a way that resembled Moses as the leader of the people, and one of his colleagues, Jacques-Alexis Thuriot, was heard saying, “Look at the bugger; it’s not enough for him to be master, he has to be God”.
Marc-Guillaume Alexis Vadier used a report to the Convention on Catherine Théot as an opportunity to attack Robespierre and his beliefs. Théot was a seventy-eight-year-old, self-declared “prophetess” who had, at one point, been imprisoned in the Bastille. By stating that Robespierre was the “herald of the Last Days, prophet of the New Dawn”, (because his festival had fallen on the Pentecost, traditionally a day revealing “divine manifestation”), Catherine Théot made it seem that Robespierre had made these claims himself, to her. Many of her followers were also supporters or friends of Robespierre, which made it seem as if he were attempting to create a new religion, with himself as its god. Although Robespierre had nothing to do with Catherine Théot or her followers, many assumed that he was on a path to dictatorship, and it sent a current of fear throughout the Convention, contributing to his downfall the following July.
Acceptance into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture
On 31 May 1783, Labille-Guiard was accepted as a member of the French Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Three other women, including Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun, were admitted as members on the same day.
The paintings of Labille-Guiard and Vigée-Le Brun were often compared by critics, with Vigée-Le Brun usually receiving more favorable reviews. Labille-Guiard’s early masterpiece Self-portrait with two pupils, exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1785, was influenced by Vigée-Le Brun’s style. The artwork of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard is now considered of equal or greater value.
Patronage by the aunt of Louis XVI of France, the princess Marie Adélaïde, gained Labille-Guiard a government pension of 1,000 livres and commissions to paint Adélaïde, her sister Victoire-Louise, and Élisabeth, the king’s sister. The portrait of Adélaïde, exhibited in 1787, was Labille-Guiard’s largest and most ambitious work to that date. In 1788 she was commissioned by the king’s brother, the Count of Provence(later Louis XVIII of France), to paint him at the centre of a large historical work,Réception d’un chevalier de Saint-Lazare par Monsieur, Grand maître de l’ordre.
These royal connections made Labille-Guiard politically suspect after the French Revolution of 1789. In 1793 she was ordered to destroy some of her royalist works, including the unfinished commission for the Count of Provence.
She was far from conservative, however. In the early 1790s she campaigned for the Academy to be reopened to women. At the Salon of 1791 she exhibited portraits of members of the National Assembly, including Maximilien Robespierre and Armand, duc d’Aiguillon.
In 1793 she and her first husband, from whom she separated in 1777, were divorced. In 1795 she obtained artist’s lodging at the Louvre and a new pension of 2,000 livres. She continued to exhibit portraits at the Salon until 1800. On 8 June 1799, she married her teacher, François-André Vincent, after which she signed some of her paintings “Madame Vincent”. She died on 24 April 1803.
Among the public collections holding works by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard are the Getty Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, the Honolulu Museum of Art, Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, Texas), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the National Museum in Warsaw, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, D.C.), the Speed Art Museum (Kentucky) andVersailles.
Marie-Gabrielle Capet, study
Madame de Genlis, 1780
Marie-Gabrielle Capet, 1785
Joachim Lebreton, 1795
Marie Gabrielle Capet and Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond
- Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (French, Paris 1749–1803 Paris)
- Black chalk with stumping, red and white chalks on beige paper
- 15 x 19 in. (38.1 x 48.3 cm)
- Credit Line:
- Purchase, Gifts from Mrs. Gardner Cassatt, Mrs. Francis Ormond, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, William Benton, Donald Silve, William M. Ivins Jr., and Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, and other gifts, bequests, and funds, by exchange, 1998
- Accession Number:
Not on view
Labille-Guiard was one of a small group of successful women artists working in France in the second half of the eighteenth century. She drew this study of the heads of her two students in preparation for her lifesize Self-Portrait with Two Pupils, which is in the Metropolitan Museum’s European Paintings collection. Although the figures are full-length in the painting, this study focuses on the placement of the two heads, their proximity to one another, their crossed gazes, and the effects of light and shadow.
Self-Portrait with Two Pupils, Marie Gabrielle Capet (1761–1818) and Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond (died 1788)
- Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (French, Paris 1749–1803 Paris)
- Oil on canvas
- 83 x 59 1/2 in. (210.8 x 151.1 cm)
- Credit Line:
- Gift of Julia A. Berwind, 1953
- Accession Number:
Not on view
Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was apprenticed to a miniaturist and later, in 1769, studied pastel with Maurice Quentin de La Tour. The rich palette and fine detail reflect her earlier training. In 1783, when she and Vigée Le Brun were admitted to the French Académie Royale, the number of women artists eligible for membership was limited to four, and this canvas has been interpreted as a propaganda piece, arguing for the place of women in the academy. Labille-Guiard sympathized with the Revolution and, unlike Vigée Le Brun, remained in France throughout her life.
Self-Promotion in Adlade Labille-Guiard’s 1785 Self-Portrait With Two Students
By Auricchio, Laura
When Adlade Labille-Guiard (1749-1803) submitted her monumental Self-Portrait with Two Students to the 1785 Salon exhibition sponsored by the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, she presented herself to a large and diverse Parisian audience as a protean figure, appearing not only as an ambitious portraitist but also in the guise of a fashionable sitter (Fig. 1).1 Measuring more than six feet tall, the striking image depicts Labille-Guiard’s elaborately attired full-length figure seated in a carefully articulated interior with two younger women standing behind her. Clearly describing the space as the studio of a professional artist, a large canvas rests on an unadorned wooden easel and dominates the left side of the composition. A utilitarian paint box on the left and a chalk holder and dusty rag on the right further indicate the material labor of painting. Yet incongruous signs of opulence abound in features such as the velvet-upholstered taboret, in the current style Louis XVI, and, most dramatically, LabilleGuiard’s attire. Here, Labille-Guiard complicates her image as a hardworking artist by dressing as an elegant woman of means, whose revealing neckline, satin gown, and trimmings of feather and lace borrow directly from the latest fashion plates.
As we will see, this grandly multifaceted Self-Portrait necessitated considerable invention. Responding, in part, to the dearth of precedents for female self-portraiture in the history of French painting, Labille-Guiard drew on an uncommonly wide range of sources and genres in an effort to picture herself to best advantage.2 Thus, even as it echoes old master traditions, the Self- Portrait taints these conventions with tinges of alluring sexuality and brash commerce. Moreover, its strategically enticing composition evokes the effect of a luxury boutique, as it calls out for both the admiration of spectators and the financial support of a paying clientele.
More specifically, the Self-Portrait played an important role in Labille-Guiard’s lifelong attempt to make the most of her fraught position as a professional woman artist. In the 1780s, an extraordinary number of women were establishing reputations among the most accomplished, and most talkedabout, contributors to Parisian art exhibitions, especially in the realm of portraiture. However, the increasing significance of public notice in advancing artists’ careers placed these women in a particularly delicate position: on the one hand, an aspiring portraitist had to catch the attention of critics and audiences in order to attract potential sitters, but, on the other hand, reigning standards of bourgeois virtue prohibited women from soliciting such interest. With the Self- Portrait, Labille-Guiard opted not to avoid but rather to highlight the contradictions that riddled both her ambitions and her reception. In so doing, she capitalized on the era’s celebration of calculated transgression and ultimately won the approbation of Salon- goers, critics, and clients alike.
Although the painting is now widely reproduced, having recently been featured on book covers and included in surveys of women artists as well as standard art history textbooks, its complex portrayal of Labille-Guiard and her students has only begun to be addressed.3 Indeed, despite her many notable contributions to the art and politics of the ancien rgime and the French Revolution, Labille-Guiard has received remarkably little scholarly attention.4 While several authors have contributed to the literature by situating Labille-Guiard in the context of other women artists, examining the gendered rhetoric of her critical reception or individual paintings, none has focused primarily on the Self- Portrait:5
My study of this work builds on the resurgent interest in women as artists and patrons in eighteenth-century France and also suggests new directions for research in the field.6 Notably, institutions and influences that are often overlooked in histories of eighteenth-century French art emerge as central to the careers of women artists. These include the commercial world of shops and fashion and the alternative exhibition spaces that welcomed female artists at a time when the academy limited women’s membership. Just such a synthetic approach may allow us to recover the lost stories of women artists while also mapping some of the competing social and aesthetic interests that shaped the cultural geography of eighteenth- century Paris.7 In fact, the peculiar situation of women artists sometimes engendered unexpected alliances among the artists, critics, and government administrators who vied for power in the turbulent final decades of the ancien rgime. Caught up in the open contests, hidden intrigues, and subversive maneuvers that roiled the art institutions of the 1770s and 1780s, but backed by little institutional support, women artists seem to have relied particularly heavily on ad hoc affiliations with various warring factions to protect and advance their careers.” Labille-Guiard, for one, became an expert on such unconventional tactics.
1783: The Self-Portrait as Drame Bourgeois
In the summer of 1783, Labille-Guiard stood on the brink of professional triumph thanks, in part, to her ability to make the most of limited opportunities.9 Though she had been barred from the rigorous education offered by the Royal Academy (which admitted female members but excluded women from studying or teaching in its schools), she had climbed the ranks of the Parisian art world by training with private masters and exhibiting at the less prestigious venues that lay beyond the academy’s dominion. Her debut had come nearly ten years earlier when in 1774 she sent a miniature, Self- Portrait, and a pastel, Portrait of a Magistrate, to the final exhibition sponsored by the Academy of Saint Luke.10 In 1782 and early 1783 she had displayed thirteen pastel portraits at the weekly gathering known as the Salon de la Correspondance, a commercial exhibition hosted by the controversial entrepreneur Mamms Claude- Catherine Pahin de Champlain la Blancherie.11 Most notably, Labille- Guiard had exhibited six portraits of current academicians in Pahin’s suite of rented rooms; her familiarity with these and other prominent artists could only have helped her bid for academic status, which succeeded on May 31, 1783.
Labille-Guiard’s choices for her inaugural academy exhibition two months later suggest that she hoped to call attention to her accomplished technique and her discerning, not to mention powerful, clientele. Of the twelve identified pastels and “several portraits under the same number” that she sent to the Louvre’s Salon Carr in August 1783, at least seven were bust-length portraits of male academy members, and an eighth was commissioned by the comtesse d’Angiviller, whose husband, the comte d’Angiviller, effectively governed the academy in his capacity as directeur-gnral des btiments du roi.12 The largest of the identified portraits was the comtesse’s Portrait of M. Brizard in the Role of King Lear, which depicts a pivotal moment in a recent Versailles production of JeanFranois Ducis’s Le Roi Lear.13 Portraying one of the year’s theatrical triumphs, Brizard in the Role of Lear offered a powerful rendering of the dispossessed Lear awakening to the tragedy of his plight, announcing Labille-Guiard’s ability to evoke expression and to convey narrative action. As it circulated in an engraving byjeanjacques Avril, and later prints by others, Brizard in the Role of Lear carried Labille-Guiard’s name, significantly linked to that of her influential patron, well beyond the walls of the Louvre (Fig. 2).
If Labille-Guiard had hoped that public opinion would celebrate the merits of her work, she must have been disappointed by its critical reception. While some reviewers praised Brizard in the Role of Lear and others commended the portraits of academicians, lively discussions of the Salon’s newly prominent female artists generally overshadowed more dispassionate analyses of their skills. Contemporary reviews, which abound with quips about the trio of women artists with works on view (Labille-Guiard, Anne Vallayer- Coster, who had joined the academy in 1770, and Elisabeth Vige- Lebrun, who, like Labille-Guiard, made her Salon debut in 1783) also issue varied assessments of their personal charms.14 For instance, one typically jocular commentary refers to the mythological beauty pageant said to have precipitated the Trojan War: “Mesdames Vallayer and Guiard also display their graces at the Salon; but Paris awards the apple to Madame LeBrun.”15
Breaking with this trend, one author crossed the line between banter and libel. The Salon’s women artists, LabilleGuiard in particular, were the primary targets of a virulent tract that named the late Duke of Marlborough as the source of lewd gossip about their sexual and professional ethics.16 The anonymous Suite de Malborough au Salon 7753 alluded crassly to a rumor that Labille- Guiard was having an affair with the history painter Franois-Andr Vincent (who became her second husband in 1799) and implied that Vincent was “touching up” both Labille-Guiard and her paintings. The rumor itself was not new, for as early as 1776 Abbe’ Lebrun had referred offhandedly to th\e allegation in his Almanack historique et raisonn des architectes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs et ciseleurs.17 Yet Labille-Guiard’s morals had never been so thoroughly denigrated. Asserting, “His love makes your talent, Love dies and the talent falls,” the pamphlet further punned on Vincent’s name to jest that Labille-Guiard had two thousand lovers, since “vingt cents, ou 2000, c’est la mme chose.”18
This taunting wordplay exemplifies the coarse humor that peppers many of the independent, and often politically charged, texts that purported to review the Salons of the 1780s.19 Unlike traditional criticism published in periodicals, which claimed to supply subscribers with unbiased assessments of Salon exhibitions and were subject to government oversight, independent pamphlets were onetime purchases that competed to entertain less sophisticated readers. Generally produced quickly and cheaply in small print runs, pamphlets could capitalize on topical events and promulgate short- lived rumors. And, since they required no ongoing relations among readers, writers, and publishers, they frequently eluded censors by claiming anonymous or fictional authors and foreign sites of production. Likening these pamphlets to the boulevard theaters that appropriated high culture in the name of parody, Bernadette Fort, in a well-known essay, has described as “carnivalesque” their inversions and hence “attack [s] on the hegemony of the old French school and the establishment that sustained it.”20 As Fort demonstrates, scores of bawdy Salon reviews enlisted historical and fictional characters ranging from Marlborough to Figaro as spokesmen for a host of political and cultural agendas.21
The Malborough pamphlet, however, did not challenge the authority of the Royal Academy or the state, but rather lambasted female academicians, whose increasing numbers had recently vexed the arts administration. With its induction of Labille-Guiard and Vige- Lebrun on May 31, the academy had reached its official limit of four female members, rekindling an internal debate about the pitfalls of encouraging women to pursue careers in the fine arts.22 Indeed, the vulgar pamphleteer and the academy’s distinguished representatives agreed on this one matter-that female academicians raised the specter of impropriety. D’Angiviller had made this point two weeks before the women’s admission, when he requested a royal decree formalizing the institution’s traditional cap on women members.23 Tellingly, his memo of May 14 emphasized the importance of decorum, citing women’s inability “to be useful to the progress of the Arts, the propriety [dcence] of their sex preventing them from being able to study from life and in the public School established and authorized by Your Majesty.”24
Despite d’Angiviller’s misgivings about female academicians, Labille-Guiard sought his help in suppressing the sale of Suite de Malborough au Salon 1783. On September 19, she penned a savvy letter to the comtesse d’Angiviller, asking her to intercede with her influential husband.25 Leaving nothing to chance, Labille-Guiard enumerated in the opening paragraph precisely what she hoped to accomplish; she simply asked the comtesse to “please use your credit and the authority of Monsieur the comte to stop a horrible libel. . . .”26 Demonstrating a sound understanding of the relevant bureaucracy, she went on to identify two officials who could preside over the matter and to spell out the charges on which they could prosecute the offending vendors: the pamphlet, she asserted, was “engraved and could not have been approved by any censor, which renders the sellers quite guilty.”
It is significant that Labille-Guiard chose to write to the comtesse, with whom she had already established a professional relationship, instead of to the comte, who did not share his wife’s sympathy for female artists. Besides, selecting the comtesse as her interlocutor enabled Labille-Guiard to appeal to the empathy of another woman, as she did in her opening lines by calling on the comtesse to act on behalf of “the interest that you take in Mme Coster and in your sex in general.” Continuing, Labille-Guiard underscored the differences that distinguish criticism leveled at an artist’s work from aspersions cast on a woman’s honor: “One must expect to have one’s talent ripped apart . . . it’s the fate of all who expose themselves to public judgment, but their works, their paintings are there to defend them, if they are good they plead their cause. Who can plead on behalf of women’s morals?”
Embellishing the facts of Labille-Guiard’s life, the letter transforms the libel into a moving third-person narrative. It tells the touching tale of a country priest visiting Paris who hoped to do a good turn for an elderly parishioner. Knowing that the old man’s daughter was a member of the Royal Academy, the well-intentioned cleric had acquired every review of the current Salon in order to apprise the octogenarian of his daughter’s achievements. Labille- Guiard indulged in a bit of sentimental ekphrasis when she asked her reader to picture the pamphlet’s heart-wrenching effect on the venerable widower:
Consider, Madame, the sorrow of an eighty-year-old man, who has only one daughter remaining of his eight children, and who consoles himself for all his losses with the bit of reputation that she has and, therefore, with the esteem that she enjoys. Picture him reading avidly, waiting to see her works criticized or praised, and seeing a horrible libel. Great people expect this, but for an ordinary individual to see that his daughter, in seeking a bit of glory, has lost her reputation, that she is insulted, how cruel that is!
This scene, replete with sensibilit, could have appeared on the canvas of Jean-Baptiste Greuze or the stage of Denis Diderot.” Observing the classical law of unities, LabilleGuiard conjured a single, pregnant moment in a true-to-life tableau, of the sort that Diderot had lauded in his writings on theater as “an arrangement of characters . . . so natural and so true that, faithfully rendered by a painter, it would please me on canvas.”28 Each player has been typecast. Her father, Claude-Edm Labille, appears as a pre de famille, the troubled patriarch of Diderot’s eponymous 1758 drame bourgeois (a type of domestic morality play) and focus of so many of Greuze’s paintings.29 In fact, Diderot had famously praised Greuze’s depiction of fatherhood-a “beautiful subject” that represents “the general vocation of all men. . . .” and demonstrates that “our children are the source of our greatest pleasures and our greatest pains.”’30 Labille-Guiard herself plays just such a complicated, Greuzian daughter, who hopes to spare her father the pain of her sullied reputation. Ultimately, her filial piety elicits our compassion, as she insisted, “I am desperate when I think of my father, at the effect that this will have on him.”31
The letter apparently succeeded in prompting official action. Although we have no direct proof that the comtesse intervened, we know that legal proceedings commenced immediately.32 At eight o’clock in the evening on September 20, the bookseller Pierre Cousin was placed under arrest and brought before the magistrate Pierre Chnon for interrogation. After thirty-nine copies of the defamatory pamphlet were seized from Cousin’s boutique in the Louvre’s Cour du Jardin de l’Infante, just downstairs from the Salon exhibition, the merchant was released. He had cooperated with investigators, supplying them with leads, but ultimately neither author nor publisher was identified.
This was the first of several instances in which LabilleGuiard calibrated her self-presentation to maximum effect. In her handling of this episode, she turned a libel to her advantage, using it to strengthen ties with an influential patron and to win the support of a powerful administrator who seemed an unlikely ally. The social position of a professional woman artist was surely a delicate one, but LabilleGuiard was able to convert base notoriety into a more welcome variety of notice.
1785: The Self-Portrait as Self-Promotion
Given Labille-Guiard’s efforts to defend her honor in 1783, the extent to which she courted attention-an unseemly desire for a virtuous woman-in 1785 may seem surprising. The monumental Self- Portrait that Labille-Guiard exhibited at the Salon that year foregrounds desirable physical features and bold professional ambitions. It mixes attributes of feminine virtue with hints of sexual possibility, at the same time that it contaminates high art traditions with blatantly commercial imagery. In a skillful balance, the resulting image, rife with playful impropriety, does not yield a carnivalesque critique. Rather, it draws attention by toying with the boundaries of acceptability. To borrow Jeremy Popkin’s assessment of the contemporaneous Mmoires secrets, an underground publication that disseminated news and opinions of the Parisian republic of letters among Europe’s political and cultural elite, the Salon pamphleteers of the 1780s “often reserved [their] most prominent pages for individuals who in one way or another had transgressed the rules of their milieu.”33
In courting mild controversy at the 1785 Salon, LabilleGuiard was taking advantage of a rare opportunity to generate publicity and, hence, commissions. Even as market forces were coming to dominate the art world in the late eighteenth century, exhibiting venues were dwindling, leaving the Royal Academy’s biennial exhibitions among the few sanctioned forums where academicians could attract customers.34 Ironically, the academy had historically sought to distance itself from commerce by adopting regulations that barred members from putting works on view in their studio windows and from dealing in art.35 But in the 1770s and 1780s, as the royal arts administration moved to close down alternative exhibitions like those sponsor\ed by the trade-oriented Academy of Saint Luke or by profit-seeking entrepreneurs, its own Salons became increasingly transformed into sites of commercial competition.36 In the venerable halls of the Palais du Louvre, academicians had little choice but to vie for the incomeproducing commissions they needed in order to subsist.
Labille-Guiard may have been in particular need of calculated publicity in 1785, when her career evidently stagnated. Although her 1785 Salon portraits reveal heightened am bidons, featuring more intricate compositions, more fully articulated details, and more lifelike figures than she had exhibited to date, most were fairly small-three-quarter or bustlength-portraits of artists and well- born women who traveled in the circles of her previous patrons.37 Moreover, a memo written by the arts ministry in the same year underscores her need for income and describes Labille-Guiard as “very little occupied.”38
How could she win more rewarding commissions without destroying her barely salvaged reputation? Labille-Guiard responded to this predicament by forging a new and original mode of self- representation that could engender discussion while also appealing to prospective patrons. To attract the highest ranks of society, she might have wanted to announce that she was capable of producing a full-length portrait.39 If it were also a group portrait, and if it related a moral or historical narrative, then it would be still more desirable. In the minds of many critics, such a “historiated portrait” would rank between portraiture and history painting, near the top of the hierarchy of genres, as it was understood to require skills associated with both types of painting.40 Like a portrait, it should not only capture likeness but also express the salient traits of its sitters’ characters. And like a history painting, it should tell a story through a complex composition depicting a single moment. A historiated group portrait also promised significant financial rewards, for it could be more lucrative than either a history painting or a portrait of an individual.41 This plan, though, rests on a paradox: Labille-Guiard sought to present herself as a painter of grand portraits before she had received a commission for such a work. She resolved this dilemma by turning to her studio and her mirror as sources for the 1785 Self-Portrait, which one critic termed a “portrait, composed like a history painting.'”42
The iconographic complexity of the resulting Self-Portrait could well have appealed to a wide range of potential sitters. One viewer might see it as a suitable template for a domestic family portrait centered on the elegant lady of the house, whose daughters bear witness to her maternal virtue. Another might read the two hovering women as allegorical figures who bespeak erudition by representing the Muses or branches of the arts. The roll of parchment that rests on the taboret furthers the painting’s appeal to a patron of either sex, for a partially revealed document that tells of the sitter’s achievements was a common trope in eighteenth-century portraiture.113 By revealing nothing of its contents, LabilleGuiard’s document allows all viewers to imagine it as a record of their own proudest moments.
The conspicuously placed, but resolutely hidden, work in progress exemplifies the narrative ambiguity that renders the Self-Portrait so compellingly versatile.44 The back of a very large canvas resting on an easel dominates the left side of the composition, presenting a tremendous amount of information concerning its materials and structure; stretchers, tacks, and the curling edges of canvas are all carefully rendered. While these details whet our appetite for knowledge about the painting on the other side, Labille-Guiard gives no indication of the subject or appearance of the unseen work. Instead, she piques our interest through the combined expressions of the two attendants, Marie-Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond and Marie- Gabrielle Capet.45 With her gaze focused and her lips parted, Capet, on the right, appears engrossed in the emerging painting. Rosemond, on the left, peers out of the picture plane at the object whose image is being captured. Together, the students compare original to painted copy-an experience we cannot share unless we heed the Self- Portrait’s call to enter Labille-Guiard’s studio.
Until then, we can only speculate about what the work in progress might portray. One possibility is that the hidden painting is the Self-Portrait itself, and that Labille-Guiard and Rosemond are gazing in a mirror. Certainly, the large size of the pictured canvas would suit a group portrait of this scale. Alternatively, Labille- Guiard may be painting one or both of the students who stand behind her. The Self-Portrait that Jean-Laurent Mosnier exhibited at the Royal Academy’s 1787 Salon develops this reading (Fig. 3).46 This painting, which contemporaries interpreted as Mosnier’s attempt to capitalize on Labille-Guiard’s success, is closely modeled after the 1785 work. Like Labille-Guiard, Mosnier depicted himself in elegant attire, seated before a large easel and in front of an open paint box. Holding a palette and brushes, he faces the viewer, as two women stand behind his chair with their heads bent toward each other. Here, though, the work in progress faces the picture plane to reveal the image of one of the standing women. A third, and more provocative, interpretation would suggest that we are watching Labille-Guiard as she paints an unseen person or group in front of her.47 Whether at the 1785 Salon in Paris or at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, we, the assembled viewers, are always among those invisible sitters. We were not the artist’s original models, but we take up their positions when we approach the painting. With this move, the Self-Portrait accomplishes its goal of generating clients: merely viewing the painting transforms us into Labille-Guiard’s patrons.
Bidding for commissions in a forum whose structure reproduces the persuasive display of a shopwindow, Labille-Guiard was perhaps following in the footsteps of her haberdasher father, whose fashionable women’s clothing store was marked by the sign ” la Toilette” and had, in the early 1760s, employed the future Madame du Barry.48 In the Self-Portrait, an appealing central figure is physically elevated above the viewer and surrounded by a plethora of carefully arranged props in a space that delimits a complete world unto itself. Peering through our window on that world, we might covet the enticing goods spread out before us.49 An abundance of artistic skills encourages us to admire the artist’s many abilities. We see that Labille-Guiard can imitate a dizzying array of materials and compile a veritable catalog of stuffs. Her painting replicates the shine of satin, the intricacy of lace, the delicacy of feathers, the rough grain of wood, the deep shadows of plush velvet, the glint of metal, the dull sheen of chalk, the porcelain texture of flawless skin, the worn folds of parchment, and the smooth surface of sculpted marble. As our gaze moves from these luxurious details to the work as a whole, we observe that the artist is equally skilled at creating illusions of depth, grouping multiple figures, painting portraits in varied lengths and poses, composing still lifes, and ennobling portraiture with classical allusions.50 All in all, the painting conjures a cornucopia of visual treats whose overabundance calls attention to the very notion of display.
In fact, Louis-Sebastien Mercier describes a scene quite like this one in his 1783 Tableau de Paris, which reports that many proprietors used their windows not only to promote their wares but also to put their shopgirls on view.51 Mercier writes that in the windows of boutiques throughout Paris, one could find saleswomen dressed in the fashions being marketed that season. Seated in rows, with the prettiest closest to the glass, they simultaneously embellished and advertised the goods for sale: “You see them through the windows. . . . You look at them freely, and they look at you in the same way . . . needle in hand, constantly casting their eyes on the street. No passerby escapes them.”52 To the men lured into boutiques by such appealing visions, “Shopping is only a pretext; they look at the salesgirls and not the merchandise.”53
In the Self-Portrait, the elaborately clothed but voluptuously revealed body of Labille-Guiard engages in a similar kind of flirtatiously engaging display. The sweep of her luxurious silk dress catches the eye, and her prominently displayed breasts dominate the center of the composition, presenting themselves for visual delectation. Her ample dcolletage does not simply contribute to the surfeit of objects on view but stands out from it, framed in creamy lace and bathed in soft light. The judicious use of shadow between her torso and left arm creates the illusion of a dramatic hourglass figure, as her generous bosom seems to tower over a remarkably narrow waist. This self-conscious exhibition of Labille- Guiard’s physical attractions appears all the more striking when seen against the more demurely rendered figures of the two students. For, while Capet wears a fashionable robe l’anglaise, and Rosemond the chemise that had recently become popular for day wear, neither dress features the shimmering satin finish or the low-cut neckline that makes Labille-Guiard so visually enticing.
In fact, her appearance allies Labille-Guiard even more directly with another form of commercial imagery associated with women-the fashion plate.54 Two specific inspirations for her pose and costume, which have not been previously identified, are to be found among the hand-colored engravings published in Galerie des Modes et des Costumes in 1784, one year before the Self-Portrait was first exhibited (Figs. 4, 5). Although such a mercant\ile source may seem to be at odds with the elevated aspirations of a historiated portrait, LabilleGuiard might have been shrewd to reference Galeries des Modes in her Self-Portrait. This periodical, which was published regularly from 1778 to 1787 and ultimately included more than four hundred prints, reached an elite audience of fashionable women who were also desirable patrons.55 Moreover, by evoking such images, Labille-Guiard was able to couch her indecorous self-display in the justifying motivation of a preexisting template.
Like the models depicted in these two plates, LabilleGuiard is pictured going about her daily life wearing a wide, half-balloon hat, decorated with plumes and ribbons, and a robe l’anglaise-the dress of choice for noble women and haute bourgeoises alike from the late 1770s into the 1780s.56 The style featured a form-fitting bodice and eschewed the wide side hoops, or panniers, of the more formal robe la franaise. Labille-Guiard sports a bosom-baring neckline similar to that of the model playing with a dog (Fig. 5); named for the mistress of Henri IV, this neck Gabrielle d’Estres had been brought back into fashion by Marie-Antoinette in 1782.57 Although its sensual potential seems self-evident, the innuendo- laden vernacular of the day nonetheless underscored its teasing allure by terming the bow on the bottom ruffle a “love knot” and referring to its placement at the center of the bosom as “perfect contentment.”58
But Labille-Guiard shares more than just the latest styles with these fashion plates; the arrangement of her body also echoes their modified contrapposto poses, which present several views of each figure to disclose as much information as possible about the depicted attire. All three sit with their lower bodies facing left and their heads and torsos rotating toward the picture plane. However, Labille-Guiard has selected the most revealing features from each source. Seemingly modeled after the more exposed bosom of the woman with the dog, Labille-Guiard’s chest faces the viewer almost directly. The positions of her left arm and leg, though, echo those of the musician: the arm rests lightly on the lap; the hand loosely holds an item between thumb and exaggerated forefinger; and the slipper peeks out from beneath the dress to perch on the bottom of a large prop. Each of these small gestures increases the visual information given about the dress and the body. For instance, the arrangement of the arm parallel to the picture plane displays the sleeve quite clearly, while the pressure of its weight on the lap delineates the thigh. Similarly, the raised foot draws the skirt more tautly against the leg, illustrating the side placement of the seam coursing from waist to hem. In fact, Labille-Guiard provides still more detail than the fashion plates by flipping the edge of her powder blue overskirt to showcase a white lining within.
By referencing such recognizable, recently published fashion plates in her Self-Portrait, Labille-Guiard simultaneously demonstrated that she possessed the skills required of a portraitist and distanced herself from the academic norm. Certainly, a Parisian society portraitist had to be familiar with the latest styles. Yet by adopting the visual language of commercial display so directly, Labille-Guiard declared an affinity with the world of trade that was forbidden to academicians and to well-bred women alike. Although Galerie des Modes catered to the highest echelons of consumers, its images were essentially advertisements. In addition, Labille-Guiard was evidently willing to associate her Self-Portrait with the coy texts that originally accompanied the printed images:59 the description of a “Lady in the role of sincere and faithful friend” (Fig. 5) explained that she is “playing with her dog while waiting for something better,”60 while the “sensitive virtuoso” (Fig. 4) was said to be “entertaining herself with a solo only while waiting for a charming duet.”61
In affiliating her self-presentation with such immodest pictures and flirtatious texts, Labille-Guiard perhaps distinguished between allure, which she invited, and scandal, which she had sought to suppress in 1783. In the late eighteenth century, fashion was increasingly understood to be an acceptable arena for female display, intimately linked to women’s desire to appeal to men.62 Contemporary reviewers of Labille-Guiard’s Self-Portrait responded in kind, invoking playful verses rather than denigrating libels. One of the more poetic critics rhapsodized:
I have blown kisses to the two mischievous little faces on
Which the eye deliciously rests, and to the mouth
From which one could have such pleasure in hearing spoken the pretty
Word that you breathe, and that you have spoken
Sometimes with emotion, isn’t it true, beautiful
Guyard? . . . But . . . I feel myself moved, ah Guyard!
Guyard! I must flee your eyes, I must. . . .63
More broadly, her embrace of fashion placed Labille-Guiard on the side of artifice in the heated discourse on clothing and appearance that flourished, along with the French fashion industry, in the second half of the eighteenth century.64 In fact, the illustrated fashion periodical, as distinct from assembled collections of captioned plates, was born with Le Cabinet des Modes in 1785, the year Labille-Guiard exhibited her Self-Portrait.65 While images of the latest styles proliferated in Paris and throughout the provinces, intellectuals and writers ranging from the Encyclopedists to moralists addressed the matter with increasing urgency. Daniel Roche has neatly summarized the high stakes of the fashion debate: “Here, individuals could play on appearance and reality, while society pondered the dilemma of truth and disguise.”66 Perhaps the protean Self-Portrait could be said to embody such an impishly playful spirit of fashion.
Artistic Ambition and Feminine Virtue
Just as the Self-Portrait’s affiliation with commerce and fashion engages with contentious debates of the day, so does its portrayal of ambitious female artists touch on current arguments regarding gendered virtue. Although prevailing codes of conduct admitted certain types of art making as beneficial for well-bred girls and women, deriving publicity from painting violated rules of propriety. Pierre-Joseph Boudier de Villemert’s conduct book Le nouvel ami des femmes, designed for “all young Ladies who wish to please with sound qualities,” spells out some of the issues at stake when a woman advertises her artistic skills as Labille-Guiard does here.67 Summarizing ideal bourgeois mores, Villemert recommends that young women possess some knowledge of painting, music, and poetry; in his vision of domestic bliss, painting could be a valuable female hobby, “a resource against boredom.”68 However, he also issues a stern warning against women’s misuse of the fine arts, noting that as silence and modesty rank among the greatest feminine virtues, women who seek publicity for their art court dishonor for themselves. In Villemert’s words, “The glory of women is to be little talked about; quite different from men who play, unmasked, all the roles that the passions assign them on the great theater of the world, women must only play . . . behind the scenes. .. . .”69
Continuing the ambivalence that permeates the Self-Portrait, Labille-Guiard acknowledges this ideal even as she flouts it, as she balances bold professional claims, deemed masculine at the time, against signs of virtuous femininity.70 Consider, for example, the two painted sculptures in the background shadows at the left. On the one hand, their evocations of antiquity combine with the painting’s clear and crisp lines to identify Labille-Guiard as a Neoclassical painter embracing a style increasingly associated not only with seriousness of purpose and strength of character but also with masculinity.71 The renderings of the sculptures further participate in the age-old paragone by presenting Labille-Guiard as a painter whose oils rival sculpture.72 Asserting that her painting can replicate stone, the artist argues for the superiority of her medium, demonstrates mastery of her skills, and, perhaps most important, places herself in a lineage of renowned painters who have sought to prove their worth by engaging in this type of rivalry. On the other hand, the sculptures’ iconography mitigates this immodesty by invoking signs of filial piety and feminine chastity. The bust that peers out from a perch above the open box is Augustin Pajou’s portrait of Claude-Edm Labille, Labille-Guiard’s father (Fig. 6). We can be certain that 1785 Salon-goers would not have mistaken the work for the Roman portrait type it evokes because Pajou’s bust of Labille was on view in the same exhibition. Surely this severe paternal visage would quash any amorous desires inspired by Labille- Guiard’s enticing body. In addition, the taller sculpture is recognizable as one of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Vestal Virgins, which may underscore the theme of sexual purity, since Rome’s vestal virgins committed themselves to decades of virginity (Fig. 7).7:1
Of course, in this age of double entendres, contemporary viewers might have perceived both virtue and vice even in the seemingly clear iconography of the vestal. Commonly employed as a sign of chastity in eighteenth-century female portraiture, vestal imagery, referring as it does to women sharing living quarters after swearing off relations with men, conveyed a more salacious layer of meanings in the underground literature of the day.74 For instance, Mathieu Franois Pidansat de Mairobert’s The English Spy, or Secret Correspondence between Milord All’Eye and Milord All’Ear (1778) imagines contemporary women engaging in same-sex orgies inspired by the Roman vestals. Pidansat de Mairobert describes passionate scenes of lesbian lovemaking in a modernday “temple to Vesta, considered the foundress of the anandrine sect or tr\ibades. . . .”75 His tribades lament that their troupe is “Nothing so fine, nothing so great as the establishment of the vestal virgins in Rome.”76 For readers unfamiliar with the term, the pornographer furnishes several definitions of “tribade,” including “a young virgin who, not having had any relations with men and convinced of the excellence of her sex, finds in it true pleasure. . . .” or a woman who “devotes herself to training pupils for the goddess.”77
Even without such sexual connotations, though, LabilleGuiard’s rendering of her pupils might have raised other questions about the propriety of the pictured women. Pointing toward feminine virtue, the Self-Portrait references the contemporary popularity of maternity as a subject of French paintings, as the images of Capet and Rosemond endow the childless Labille-Guiard with the equivalent of daughters.78 Salon-goers recognized the women (although the work was displayed with the generic title Portrait of a Lady with Two Students) and many knew that Labille-Guiard’s relationship with her students verged on the familial; Capet was a member of Labille- Guiard’s household at the time the work was exhibited and continued to live with her teacher until LabilleGuiard’s death.79 But the images of Capet and Rosemond reminded at least one viewer of a more sordid situation. As the reviewer for Mmoires secrets noted in his discussion of the Self-Portrait, a “heated debate” had raged that summer concerning these very students, who had elicited professional approbation and moral condemnation by exhibiting portraits at the Place Dauphine in June.80
That an exhibition at the Place Dauphine would merit such notice points to a renewed interest in this annual event, which had declined significantly in the middle of the eighteenth century.81 The Place Dauphine, a triangular court near the Pont-Neuf on the le de la Cit, had for decades hosted an annual exhibition as part of the celebrations for the feast of Corpus Christi. Each year, an elaborate procession would accompany the consecrated Host through the streets of Paris. Festive decorations created a grand spectacle, with rugs and tapestries hung from high windows and temporary altars set up along the route. At the Place Dauphine, artists and collectors adorned decorative hangings with paintings to be viewed, discussed, and sold. In the early part of the eighteenth century, when exhibiting opportunities were limited, works by academicians regularly appeared alongside paintings by aspiring artists. After the Royal Academy began sponsoring biennial Salons in 1747, though, few of its members chose to participate in a display often referred to as the “Exposition de la Jeunesse” (Exhibition of Youth). In fact, academicians hoping to define themselves as virtuous liberal artists may have had good reason to shun a site associated with low forms of popular culture. They may have had little to gain and much to lose by mingling with the carnival performers, vendors of scandalous songs, and tradesmen of questionable integrity who made the nearby Pont-Neuf their place of business.
The exhibition’s midcentury loss of interest and attendance has been well documented, yet its continued significance for female artists and its resurgence in the 1780s remain little known. A review of the 1761 exhibition acknowledged its particular role in advancing women’s careers, noting that “feminine talents are almost never admitted” at the Royal Academy, with the result that “women artists look elsewhere to enjoy the acclaim of which they strive to render themselves worthy.”82 The numbers of artists and viewers at the Place Dauphine increased in the 1780s, thanks in part to the efforts of Labille-Guiard’s students. In 1783, the Journal de Paris reported that more works were shown than in recent years.83 By 1784, the turnaround was complete, for a critic complained about excessive crowds blocking his view.84 The same author singled out three of Labille-Guiard’s students as the best portraitists on view, writing, “In this genre, the Dlles Capet, Alexandre, Rosemond . . . are the most distinguished artists. . . . all of these Demoiselles deserve to be encouraged by just praise.”85 Indeed, the women who studied with LabilleGuiard were often named the most accomplished painters at the Place Dauphine exhibitions in this period.86
The exhibition’s resurgence did not diminish the site’s questionable character, which permeates a 1784 watercolor entitled Exposition de tableaux sur la Place Dauphine (Fig. 8) .87 Here, a woman at the far left lifts a piece of protective cloth to reveal an easel painting hidden beneath it. At the same time, her male companion displays a visually enticing object, as he pulls at the woman’s bodice to sneak a peek at her exposed left breast. In another act of open voyeurism, a bewigged man at the right ogles two women through the magnifying lens of a lorgnette. Although we can just discern rows of barely visible paintings lining the facades in the background, the atmosphere seems closer to low fairground conviviality than to high art appreciation.
That young female artists contributed to such a vulgar scene irked at least one cultural critic. In the Journal General de France of June 14, 1785, an anonymous writer set off a lengthy debate when he objected to participation of young women in this unseemly public square.88 Although acknowledging that the best works at the Place Dauphine were by women artists, he castigated parents who “cruelly” encouraged their daughters to become professional artists. Women artists, he argued, would lack adequate time to care for their husbands, children, and households while “the attention of connoisseurs, that is to say, flatterers,” would jeopardize the “taste for simplicity and retreat” that befits a mother and encourages conjugal fidelity. More specifically, he took pains to distinguish the class-specific concerns of bourgeois girls. Citing one danger, he warned that a daughter equipped with commercial skills might conjure the specter of lower-status women who exhibit themselves in the public marketplace. Noting a different error, he chastised parents who equipped their bourgeois daughters with skills proper to elite hobbyists. A wife in the middle classes needs an eye to economy, he opined, not lofty airs.
Defenders of the disparaged young women advanced their position in letters to the editor published in the following weeks.81′ One of the most striking opinions was issued by Antoine Renou, secrtaire adjoint of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, who proposed that a woman’s artistic skills could actually be a boon to conjugal happiness.90 According to Renou, a wife’s painting abilities might flatter her husband’s vanity and thereby serve as “a vehicle for Amor who sometimes sleeps in the arms of Hymen.” Moreover, he played fast and loose with the customs of the day, which barred women from studying the male nude in the academy’s life-drawing classes, when he asserted that a woman who had studied male anatomy would be less likely to stray because such familiarity would remove all mystery and “extinguish the flame of great passions.” The final letter on the subject was published just a few weeks before the Self-Portrait appeared in the Salon, providing the immediate context for its reception. While Labille-Guiard could not have foreseen this particular debate when she conceived the Self-Portrait, her painting clearly engages with its central dispute concerning the propriety of ambitious female artists.
The boldness of Labille-Guiard’s self-presentation must have appeared all the more striking at the 1785 Salon, where viewers could compare the Self-Portrait with Antoine Vestier’s Portrait of Marie-Nicole Vestier, whose iconography portrays the artist’s daughter as a well-bred hobbyist who has developed impressive skills but employs them in a virtuous manner (Fig. 9).91 Each painting depicts a fulllength image of a female artist seated at an easel in the center of a composition accompanied by an effigy of a family member. Just as Pajou’s sculpture of Monsieur Labille watches over Labille-Guiard’s studio, a portrait bust of Madame Vestier stands behind Marie-Nicole. Like LabilleGuiard, Vestier seems to have been inspired by contemporary fashion plates, as he likewise depicts his subject in a silk robe l’anglaise and a half-balloon hat decorated with ribbons and feathers. However, he has taken pains to rein in untoward implications. Marie-Nicole appears decidedly more demure than Labille-Guiard, her breast covered with a fichu and turned sideways, away from the viewer. An analogous modesty characterizes her artistic endeavors. She works not in a studio but at home, with her small easel standing on a carpeted floor. Other furnishings, such as a harpsichord adorned with sheet music and a violin resting on the easel, intimate that this well-rounded young woman practices painting as one gracious hobby among many.
Finally, the image emerging in the painting-within-thepainting places Marie-Nicole’s honor beyond reproach, for it assures us that this young woman has put her considerable skills to work in the service of portraying her father’s face. Furthermore, the implied narrative situates Vestier in the positions of artist, model, and viewer, indicating that he painted the portrait of his daughter while she recorded his image on canvas. Extant portraits testify that Marie-Nicole, in fact, painted men other than her father, but this work ensures that no male viewer will imagine himself in a potentially amorous sitting with the attractive young artist.92 Standing in front of his painting, we are transformed into Vestier, with our image reflecting back as his. With no hint of commercial ambitions, no sexual immodesty, and no structural tensions to pique or sustain desire, Vestier’s rendering of his daughter maps the boundaries of acceptable feminine art maki\ng, as codified by Villemert and other guardians of etiquette. In contrast, Labille- Guiard’s Self-Portrait evokes these borders only to blur them.
1787: Ennobling the Self-Portrait
Labille-Guiard’s carefully calibrated self-presentation evidently succeeded in attracting desirable notice, for the livret (catalog) published in conjunction with the next Salon, held in 1787, indicated that Labille-Guiard had become “Premier peintre de Mesdames” and listed three portraits of royal women under her name. Her new patrons, Mesdames Adlade and Victoire, were the unmarried daughters of Louis XV, aunts of Louis XVI, who presided over their own, tradition-bound court at the Chteau de Bellevue.!M Two pieces of evidence point to the 1785 Self-Portrait as the key to Mesdames’ selection of Labille-Guiard as court painter. First, we have a report published in the Anne Littraire of 1785 indicating that Madame Adlade had sought to purchase the Self-Portrait from the artist, who would not part with it despite the large sum-ten thousand livres-it would fetch.94 second, we have visual evidence. For although Labille-Guiard never sold her masterpiece, she provided Madame Adlade with the next best thing-a portrait of Madame pied clearly based on the coveted Self-Portrait (Fig. 10).95
A point-by-point comparison of the 1785 Self-Portrait and the 1787 portrait, Adlade de France, Daughter of Louis XV, Known as “Madame Adlade, ” reveals striking similarities and telling differences. Both center on the full-length image of a luxuriously attired woman next to a painting presented on an easel. Both feature detailed interiors whose linear floor patterns contribute to an illusion of dramatic recession. An upholstered chair and a stool with a roll of paper resting on its seat accompany both figures. Where two students stand behind Labille-Guiard, two columns with Corinthian capitals tower over Madame Adlade. Carved representations of the sitter’s father appear in both backgrounds. And, in the most direct transposition of all, a small statue depicting a vestal bearing a lighted torch is just visible in the shadowy areas at the left of both pictures.
At every turn, though, Adlade de France ennobles the SfIfPortrail, remaking the 1785 interior in opulent materials and replacing bourgeois furnishings with diose appropriate for court life. The floor that was covered with uneven wooden boards now gleams with richly variegated marble. The base of Labille-Guiard’s rough-hewn easel now boasts a foliate garland and ormolu sabots in the shape of winged claws. LabilleGuiard sits on an armless chair, whereas Madame stands before a fauteuil whose back features semidetached colonnettes. The artist’s four-legged taboret has been replaced by the still more elevated pliant, whose X-shaped form derives from the sella curulis that Romans reserved for senators who had held a curule magistracy.96 More broadly, Labille-Guiard aggrandized the depicted space by suggesting that the room continues an untold distance to the left. If the clustered arrangement of secondary figures in the Self-Portrait focuses our eyes on the artist at the center, the relief above Madame Adlade features two figures at the leftmost edge who gaze past the border of the canvas, expanding our attention to something beyond our view.97
Madame Adelaide’s attire is similarly well suited to her noble and chaste persona. Whereas Labille-Guiard had taken pains to dress herself in the revealing clothes of a stylish Parisienne, she presents Madame Adelaide in a manner that is no less ornate but that pointedly rejects both bourgeois fashion trends and sexualized display.98 The conservative Madame Adlade appears here in the supremely formal sack dress-suitable only at court-featuring a gray silk skirt and a red velvet robe, with ornamented borders of silver and gold embroidery unifying the ensemble.” These heavy garments hang loosely over Madame’s standing figure, communicating little about the body hidden beneath. Her neckline is entirely decorous, with an chelle, or ladder of bows, providing the area’s primary visual interest. Labille-Guiard’s handling of fabric in general moves away from the specific depiction of an item of clothing toward the general evocation of drapery.100 Freed from the task of describing the appearance of a particular garment, a cascade of black velvet tumbles from the top of the easel to the floor, echoed majestically by the luxurious train of Madame’s red velvet robe and in miniature by the cloth in her hand.
The portrait’s abundant iconography, explicated by extensive narratives published in the accompanying livret, further establishes Madame Adelaide’s devotion to God and to family.101 Expressing both filial and religious piety, the unfurled parchment hanging over the edge of the pliant in the left foreground reveals “the plan of the convent founded at Versailles by the late Queen [MarieLeszcinska, mother of Mesdames] and of which Madame Adlade is the directrice.”102 In addition, images of family members surround the subject. On her easel rests a framed, oval painting featuring three overlapping, classicized silhouettes representing the “late King, the late Queen, and the late Dauphin, reunited in a bas-relief that imitates bronze; the princess, who is supposed to have painted them herself, has just traced these words: ‘Their image remains the charm of my life.'”103 Like a royal incarnation of Marie-Nicole Vestier, Madame Adlade employs artistic skills only for the most honorable purposes.
The deathbed scene featured prominently in the frieze at the top of the painting crystallizes Madame’s selfless devotion to her father and her sound grasp of gendered principles.104 At the right, King Louis XV lies in a simple bed, his head and chest propped up with pillows. Two figures standing behind the headboard bow their heads in prayer or mourning for the monarch dying of smallpox. Adlade and her sister Victoire seem to have just entered from the left, where two attendants stride forward, raising their arms as if to intercept the approaching women. The livret elucidates the action. The king had “just sent away the Princes due to the danger of the malady,” when Mesdames “entered, despite all oppositions, saying ‘We are happily only princesses.'”105 Male heirs had to be spared potential contagion, because of the infectious and potentially fatal nature of smallpox, and also because the disease was believed to cause sterility in men. But the sisters, who did not have to fear loss of fecundity and whose lives were more expendable, understood their duty to their dying father.
Just as the contents of these painted and printed narratives clarify and celebrate the character of the sitter, their form and extent also enhance the status of both painting and painter.106 More than a historiated portrait, with its depiction of the death of Louis XV in its trompe l’oeil frieze, Adlade de France actually encompasses a Neoclassical history painting. The livrets inclusion of extensive explanatory texts speaks to the painting’s claim to an elevated rank. As a rule, lengthy explanations accompanied only history paintings, whose close ties to discourse had justified the Royal Academy’s claims for the liberal arts status of painting. In fact, Adlade de France is the only portrait granted this kind of discursive supplement in the 1787 livret. It is unlikely that this treatment simply reflects the royal stature of Madame Adlade, for Vige-Lebrun’s contemporaneous Portrait of Marie-Antoinette and Her Children enjoyed no such distinction. Perhaps LabilleGuiard’s portrait had earned the prerogatives of history painting by including the kind of didactic morality tale that was widely seen to argue for the supremacy and utility of painting’s highest genre.107 At least one reviewer pronounced Labille-Guiard’s exhibited works “irresistible proof of the strength and breadth” of women’s “moral faculties” and singled out Adelaide de France as meriting “the most worthy of praises.”108
Ultimately, the narrative and pictorial clarity of Madame Adlade’s portrait constitutes its greatest difference from the 1785 Self-Portrait. Gone is the penumbra that lurks behind Labille- Guiard and her students. Instead, the rich red velvet of Madame Adelaide’s robe contrasts sharply with the pale stone background, and light ricochets around lustrous surroundings. Gone, too, is the ambiguity that envelops Labille-Guiard’s work in progress, as Madame Adlade’s completed painting faces the picture plane to reveal its virtuous contents. Every detail is twice explicated-in paint and in print. The royal portrait seeks to display, to instruct, and to impress, while the Self-Portrait aims to engage and to intrigue.
In fact, the ambivalence that courses through the SelfPortrait surely helped to render it an uncommonly effective vehicle for self- promotion, for the tensions that troubled Labille-Guiard’s professional position serve here to animate the painting and to engross the viewer. With this work, Labille-Guiard reveled in the kind of self-display that a bourgeois woman was supposed to avoid, engaged blatantly with the realm of commerce that was anathema to the Royal Academy, and highlighted her female gender by surrounding herself with the trappings of fashion. At every step, though, she simultaneously nodded at respectability, with recognizable references to fashion plates justifying her immodest pose and attire and a Neoclassical bust of her father overseeing the entire composition. Like any woman who exhibited her art in late- eighteenth-century Paris, Labille-Guiard walked a fine line between propriety and indecency. By toying with this seemingly intractable dilemma, perhaps Labille-Guiard was finally able to triumph over it.
The monumental Self-Portrait with Two Students that French academician Adlade Labille-Guiard (1749-1803) exhibited at the 1785 Salon manip\ulated the contradictions and controversies that defined the era’s professional female artists and, through its calculated transgressions, won the approbation of critics, Salon-goers, and elite patrons. Influenced by diverse sources, ranging from old master traditions to contemporary fashion plates, the work presented Labille-Guiard as a protean figure-both an ambitious portraitist and a stand-in for fashionable sitters. This calibrated ambivalence propelled Labille-Guiard to new heights of social and professional success.
This essay is excerpted and expanded from my dissertation, which was sponsored by Natalie Kampen and Simon Schama at Columbia University and funded by Columbia, the Fulbright Program, and the Whiting Foundation. Parts of this material have been presented at venues including the Frick Symposium on the History of Art, the American Society for EighteenthCentury Studies, and the Annual Conference of the College Art Association. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kathryn Galitz, Denny Stone, and the Costume Institute were very helpful. I am also grateful to Marc Gotlieb, Lory Frankel, and The Art Bulletin’s anonymous readers for their commentary, and especially to Melissa Hyde and Maria Ruvoldt, who generously read and commented on a late draft of this article.
All translations from the French are my own, unless otherwise noted.
1. The full title as given by the Metropolitan Museum is Self- Portrait with Two Pupils, Mademoiselle Marie Galriielle Capet (1761- 1818) and Mademoiselle Carreaux de Rosemond (died 1788). On the museum’s acquisition of the painting, see Elizabeth E. Gardner, “Four French Paintings from the Berwind Collection,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 20, no. 9 (May 1962): 265-71.
2. On the surge in self-portraits of French women artists pictured at the easel in the late eighteenth century, see Marie-Jo Bonnet, “Femmes peintres leur travail: De l’autoportrait comme manifeste politique (XVIIIe-XIXe sicles),” Revue d’Histoire Moderne el Contemporaine 49, no. 3 (July-September 2002): 140-67.
3. See, for instance, the covers of Aileen Ribeiro, The Art of Dress: fashion in England and France 7500 -1820 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); and Marilyn Stokstad, Art History (Upper Saddle River, NJ.: Prentice Hall, 2005).
4. Anne-Marie Passez’s 1973 catalogue raisonn remains the most recent book on the artist, and my own dissertation, completed in 2000, offers the only English-language monograph. In addition to Anne-Marie Passez, Adlade Labille-Guiard, 1749-1803 (Paris: Arts et Mtiers Graphiques, 1973); and Laura Auricchio, “Portraits of Impropriety: Adlade Labille-Guiard and the Careers of Professional Women Artists in Late Eighteenth-Century Paris” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2000); see also Roger Portalis, Adlade’s Labille- Guianl, 1749-1803 (Paris: Georges Rapilly, 1902).
5. The present essay is the first to give the Self-Portrait a concerted study. However, the Self-Portrait has been discussed in recent work, including Liana De Girolami Cheney, Alicia Craig Faxon, and Kathleen Lucey Russo, Self-Portraits by Women Painters (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2000), 123-24; Melissa Hyde, “Under the Sign of Minerva,” in Women, Art and the Politics of Identity in Eighteenth-Century Europe, ed. Hyde and Jennifer Milam (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2003), 139-63; and Mary D. Sheriff, The Exceptional Woman: Elisabeth Vige-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 187-89.
6. I am particularly indebted to Mary D. Sheriff’s influential account of lisabeth Vige-Lebrun (whom contemporary critics termed LabilleGuiard’s rival), especially Sheriffs argument that the category of the “woman artist” was hotly contested in the waning years of the ancien rgime, such that deft self-presentation became a prerequisite for women’s artistic achievement. In addition to Sheriff, The Exceptional Woman, see also Mary D. Sheriff, “Woman? Hermaphrodite? History Painter? On the Self-Imaging of Elisabeth Vige-Lebrun,” Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 35, no. 1 (Spring 1994): 3-27; and idem, “The Im modesty of Her Sex: Elisabeth Vige-Lebrun and the Salon of 1783,” in The Consumption of Culture, 1600-1800: Image, Object, Text, ed. Ann Bermingham and John Brewer (London: Routledge, 1995), 455-88.
7. For a similar argument about the need to seek women’s stories in alternative sites and marginal sources, see Melissa Hyde, “Women and the Visual Arts in the Age of Marie-Antoinette,” in Anne Vallayer-Coster. Painter to the Court of Marie-Antoinette, ed. Eik Killing and Marianne Roland Michel (Dallas: Dallas Museum of An, 2002), 75-93, esp. 81.
8. My understanding of the volatile politics of the Parisian art world has been particularly influenced by Thomas Crow, Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985); Bernadette Fort, “Voice of the Public: The Carnivalization of Salon Art in Prerevolutionary Pamphlets,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 22, no. 3 (Spring 1989): 368-94; and Richard Wrigley, The Origins of French Art Criticism from the Ancien Regime to the Restoration (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).
9. Unlike many women artists of her period, Labille-Guiard was not born into a family of artists or artisans but rather came from a family of merchants. For Labille-Guiard’s early history, see Passez, Labille-Guiard, 7-15.
10. Complete catalog entries for all of Labille-Guiard’s works discussed here may be found in Passez, Labille-Guiard.
11. On the Salon de la Correspondance in the context of the intellectual project of the Enlightenment, see Dena Goodman, The Republic of letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994), 242-80. For a catalog of the works of art exhibited at the Salon de la Correspondance, see mile Bellier de la Chavignerie, “Artistes oublis et ddaigns: Pahin de la Blancherie et le Salon de la Correspondance,” Revue Universelle des Arts 19 (1864): 203-24, 239- 67, 354-67; 20 (1865): 46-58, 116-27, 189-95, 253-62, 320-29, 402- 27; 21 (1866): 34-48, 87-112, 175-90. See also Laura Auricc
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