This sympathetic portrait of Lucie Ditte (1804-1877), née Garnier, is one of the few painted by Vigée Le Brun during the last decade of her life. Granddaughter of the artist’s onetime friend, the famous Swedish miniaturist Peter Adolf Hall (1739-1793), Lucie Ditte was twenty-eight years old when she sat to the seventy-seven year old Vigée Le Brun, who had known the young woman since she was a child. Indeed, the aging and infirm artist wrote to Mme. Ditte on 8 July 1838, some six years after the portrait was completed, emphasizing her longstanding fondness for the much younger woman: “I have cared for you since your birth, for that is when I first knew you, and since that time my affection has only intensified. Yes, my young friend, I pledge to you my unreserved friendship which will last as long as I live.”
Lucie Garnier was married to the considerably older Charles-Honoré Ditte, founder of the insurance company, Le Phénix. The couple resided in Paris at 41, rue des Trois-Frères (today part of the rue Taitbout), and at their vast country house, Domaine de Saint-Paul, near Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, south-east of Versailles, which Ditte had purchased in 1826. There, the couple entertained the celebrated writers Victor Hugo and Georges Sand, the painter Gustave Moreau and the composer Léo Delibes. A related bust-length portrait of Lucie Ditte, which is neither signed nor dated, was recorded in 1986 in the collection of Philippe Desrateaux, a descendant of the sitter’s half-brother, Étienne-Jules Michaux (1806-1887).
The present painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Vigée Le Brun by Joseph Baillio.