The prototype of 1790, on canvas, 100 x 80 cm, is in the Uffizi, Florence (J. Baillio, Elisabeth Louise Vige-Le Brun 1755-1842, exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1982, p.78, fig.29).
The prototype was painted during the artist's stay in Rome. The picture, where she is seen working on a portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette, aroused great interest and admiration, as becomes clear from the letter she wrote to Hubert Robert and Thodore Brognart on 16 March 1790:
"My painting for Florence enjoys the greatest success. I would seem fatuous if I explained to you the details of its complete success. Never in my life have I been encouraged this much. I have enjoyed it all the more because the Romans accord nearly no attention to our school (of painting), or so it is often said. But still, they have for me that which they have never had, the greatest enthousiasm! All the artists have come, come again; the princesses of all countries, the men even. Finally it is to the point that for ten days my mornings have been occupied by sixty or eighty persons of all ranks (who come to see the painting). They call me Madame van Dyck, Madame Rubens." (M.D. Sheriff, The Exceptional Woman, Elisabeth Vige-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art, p.229).
On 26 August 1791, Vige-Lebrun wrote a letter to the Grand-Duke's agent, Chevalier Pelli, in which she asks if the picture can be presented to Duke Ferdinand III as "a tribute to his protection of the arts" (M. D. Sheriff, op. cit., p.230). Vige-Lebrun had always intended it for the Self-Portrait Gallery in the Uffizi, founded in 1664 by Cardinal Leopoldo de'Medici. Clearly, she wanted to rank among the many great artists that were represented in that gallery, as is evident from the fact that she undertook the work on her own initiative (whereas most self-portraits in the gallery were commissioned) and from the scale of the work, which was among the largest in the Self-Portrait Gallery.