Elisabeth Vigee-La Brun
In the beginning of Trianon: A Novel of Royal France by Elena Maria Vidal, Elizabeth Vigee-La Brun relates a short observation of the martyrted Queen Marie-Antoinette. In opposition to the venomous calumnies spewed by the convention, the Queen is seen in her true light, that of a gracious and refined woman. I was especially struck by the anecdote where Vigee-La Brun while pregnant rushes late to work on her painting of the Queen who is just leaving the palace, seeing Vigee-La Brun she immediatly changes her plans to provide Vigee-La Brun an opportunity for a sitting. When Vigee-La Brun drops something the Queen takes it upon herself to fetch it up dispite the protestations of the painter. This is a simple kindness which was more indicative of a mother than of a sovereign was instinctual. Marie-Antoinette comes through and as clean as the sharpness of a bell. She rings true. She is human.
Through her talents as a portraitist Vigee Le Brun became one of the most successful of all women painters. Before the French Revolution she was painter and friend to Queen Marie-Antoinette, and she moved in the highest social circles. In this self portrait of 1782 the pretty, youthful artist looks out, with a candid gaze. The self portrait is closely based on Rubens's portrait of his sister inlaw Susanna Lunden.