Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun - Marie Antoinette and Her Children

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755 - 1842): Rococo (1730s - 1780s)

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, a prominent figure in the art world of the 18th century, stands as a testament to the power of talent, perseverance, and breaking societal norms. As a portrait painter during the Rococo period, her works captured the elegance and grace of the aristocracy, solidifying her place in history as a master of her craft. This article delves into the life, education, art style, and a selection of notable artworks of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun.

Birthplace and Family Background

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was born on April 16, 1755, in Paris, France. Her father, Louis Vigée, was a portraitist and pastel artist, which played a significant role in shaping her early exposure to the world of art. Her mother, Jeanne Maissin, was a hairdresser. Growing up in an artistic environment, Élisabeth demonstrated a natural affinity for painting from a young age.

Education and Training

Under the guidance of her father, Élisabeth received her initial art education. However, her formal training was cut short due to his untimely death when she was just 12 years old. She continued to study independently, often visiting museums and studying the works of established artists. Her dedication and innate talent allowed her to refine her skills and develop her unique style.

Art Style: Rococo Elegance

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun's art style is closely associated with the Rococo period, characterized by its emphasis on delicate, ornate details and themes of romance, playfulness, and opulence. Her portraits exude a sense of charm and refinement, capturing her subjects in a soft, flattering light. She was known for her ability to highlight her subjects' best features while maintaining a sense of realism.

20 Notable Artworks:

1. Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat (1782)

This self-portrait showcases Vigée Le Brun's mastery in capturing texture and emotion. She depicts herself wearing a straw hat adorned with flowers, her gaze directed at the viewer with a mix of confidence and vulnerability.

2. Marie Antoinette and Her Children (1787)

A poignant portrayal of Queen Marie Antoinette with her children, this painting offers an intimate glimpse into the royal family's life. The tender interaction between the queen and her children is portrayed with maternal warmth.

3. Portrait of Countess Anna Ivanovna Tolstaya (1796)

In this portrait, Vigée Le Brun captures the Countess in a moment of elegance, draped in luxurious fabrics and surrounded by a dreamy ambiance. The play of light and shadows adds depth to the composition.

4.Portrait of Madame Récamier (1800)

Madame Récamier's allure and beauty are brilliantly conveyed in this portrait. The artist's skill in rendering fabrics and textures shines through, particularly in the intricate details of the dress and furniture.

5. Portrait of Empress Josephine (1807)

Vigée Le Brun's portrayal of Empress Josephine exudes regal grace and sophistication. The empress is depicted in a lavish gown, with attention to the delicate embellishments and jewelry.

6. Portrait of Madame Perregaux (1809)

In this portrait, Madame Perregaux's striking features are accentuated by the artist's meticulous attention to detail. The contrast between her porcelain skin and the dark background creates a captivating composition.

7. Portrait of Princess Belozersky (1815)

Vigée Le Brun's ability to capture the essence of her subjects is evident in this portrait of Princess Belozersky. The soft lighting and gentle expression emphasize the princess's refined beauty.

8. Self-Portrait with Her Daughter Julie (1789)

This self-portrait captures Vigée Le Brun with her daughter Julie, showcasing the artist's personal side. The tender bond between mother and child is palpable in their loving gazes.

9. Portrait of Countess Golovine (1797)

In this portrait, Countess Golovine exudes sophistication and poise. The intricacies of her attire and the delicate rendering of her features demonstrate Vigée Le Brun's exceptional skill.

10. Portrait of Madame Récamier Reclining (1809)

In this reclining portrait, Madame Récamier's beauty and allure take center stage. The languid pose and sumptuous fabrics create a sense of luxurious comfort.

11. Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (1804)

Vigée Le Brun's portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna captures the essence of royalty. The grandeur of the duchess's attire is complemented by the artist's meticulous attention to detail.

12. Portrait of Prince Henry Lubomirski (1783)

This portrait of Prince Henry Lubomirski exudes a sense of aristocratic charm. The prince's confident gaze and elegant attire are masterfully depicted by Vigée Le Brun.

13. Portrait of Madame Seriziat (1795)

Madame Seriziat's portrait showcases the artist's ability to convey a sense of intimacy. The subject's gentle smile and relaxed pose capture a natural, unguarded moment.

14. Portrait of Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich as a Child (1780)

In this portrait, Vigée Le Brun captures the innocence and youth of Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich. The playful expression and bright colors convey a sense of youthful exuberance.

15. Portrait of Comtesse de la Châtre (1789)

The elegance and grace of Comtesse de la Châtre are brought to life in this portrait. The artist's attention to fashion and intricate details of the dress is evident in every brushstroke.

16. Portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette (1778)

Vigée Le Brun's portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette is an iconic representation of the queen's beauty and elegance. The elaborate hairstyle and regal attire showcase the artist's skill in capturing opulence.

17. Portrait of Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine (1769)

In this early portrait, Vigée Le Brun's talent is already evident. The young prince's features are rendered with precision, foreshadowing the artist's future mastery.

18. Portrait of Princess Ekaterina Dmitrievna Golitsyna (1799)

Princess Ekaterina Dmitrievna Golitsyna's portrait radiates a sense of dignity and nobility. The subject's composed expression is complemented by the artist's attention to refined details.

19. Portrait of Comtesse de La Châtre (1789)

Another exquisite portrayal of Comtesse de La Châtre, this portrait emphasizes the subject's beauty and allure. The soft color palette and delicate brushwork contribute to the overall sense of elegance.

20. Portrait of Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante (1790)

This portrait of Lady Hamilton captures her in the guise of a Bacchante, embodying the playful spirit of the Rococo era. The subject's joyful expression and flowing drapery evoke a sense of movement.


Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun's legacy as a pioneering female artist and a master of Rococo portraiture continues to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts around the world. Her ability to infuse elegance, emotion, and detail into her works solidifies her as a true luminary of the 18th-century art scene. Through her remarkable portraits, Vigée Le Brun not only documented the lives of the aristocracy but also left an indelible mark on the annals of art history.


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