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Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755-1842)
Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755-1842)

Portrait of a junior officer of the French Royal infantry, bust-length

Details
Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755-1842)
Portrait of a junior officer of the French Royal infantry, bust-length
oil on canvas, oval
24 x 19 3/8 in. (61 x 49.2 cm.)
Literature
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of paintings by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun prepared by Dr. Joseph Baillio.

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Lot Essay

Dating very early in Vigée Le Brun’s oeuvre, this portrait of a young infantry officer was painted in circa 1773 to 1775, when the artist was aged around 18 or 20. Only a few years after its execution, the artist was commissioned in 1778 with her first official portrait of Marie Antoinette (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. no. 2772), who would go on to become one of her most generous and committed patrons. As her renown during the 1770s grew, wealthy clientele flocked to the painter’s studio for their portraits to be painted.

The present sitter is dressed in the white uniform of the French Royal infantry, with his gold epaulette indicating that he holds a junior officer’s rank. The delicacy of the painter’s brushwork, and her attention to details of costume and effects of light, demonstrate the already highly sophisticated style Vigée Le Brun had mastered even in her youth. The portrait takes the form of an oval, a format the painter returned to repeatedly during her career. Despite this, as a portrait of a young officer, the picture is somewhat unusual within Vigée Le Brun’s wider oeuvre, which does not include many soldierly sitters. It is similar in tone, as well as subject, however, to a roughly contemporary work in pastel of An Officer of probably from the Swiss Guard Corps or King's Musketeers, recently offered at auction in France.

This picture will be published in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of paintings by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, prepared by Dr. Joseph Baillio.

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