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

A young woman, bust-length, in a white blouse

Details
Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (Paris 1755-1842)
A young woman, bust-length, in a white blouse
oil on canvas, oval
16 1/8 x 12 ¾ in. (41 x 32.4 cm.)
Provenance
Madame Caus, 19 avenue Franklin Roosevelt, Paris, 1983, where acquired by the present owner.

Lot Essay

This small bust-length depiction of a blue-eyed, young girl, with her head lifted and turned to her left, might properly qualify as a figure d’expression, a genre that had been popularized in the 1760s by Jean Baptiste Greuze and was later much imitated by his contemporaries and followers. Among them was the young Élisabeth Louise Vigée, who as a very young girl, in order to improve her skills, had copied “heads” by Greuze.
After her father’s death in 1767, she was accompanied by her mother on visits to the most important art collections of the time, such as those of the Duc d’Orléans, the Duc de Choiseul Praslin, the tax collector Pierre Louis Paul Randon de Boisset and the banker François Michel Harenc de Presle:
“As soon as I entered into one of these splendid galleries, I could have been perfectly compared to a bee because I was storing in my mind knowledge and memories useful to my art as I became inebriated with the enjoyment of contemplating the Old Masters. Moreover, to fortify myself I would copy a numbers of paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and several head of young girls by Greuze because these taught me so much about half-tones that are found in delicate complexions.” (É.L. Vigée Le Brun, Souvenirs, Paris, 1835, I, p. 19 [translated by the author].)
At one time, the present painting was incomprehensibly ascribed to Jean Honoré Fragonard. However, it can only be the work of Vigée Le Brun, who painted similar images of youthful girls both in oils and in pastel and on various scales, most of them oval in shape. One such earlier work is an image of a young woman with her head veiled (fig. 1) and the likeness of a little girl leaning on a grassy embankment (fig. 2).
Joseph Baillio
This painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné of the works of Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun by Joseph Baillio.

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