Blog Tales

Élizabeth-Louise Vigée-LeBrun & a Trip to the Petit Trianon From Afar

Twenty six years ago I stepped into the Louvre in Paris, France for the first time...

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That entire trip was a faerie tale and a pivot in time that would forever change the course of my life...

With awe at the masterpieces before me, I fell in love with art of a woman painter from the 18th-19th century... stepping from room to room, her pieces appeared before me, drawing me to them like a light...

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(Self Portrait - 1789)

Over the years since, I have delved into the history of Marie Élizabeth-Louise Vigée-LeBrun, 1755 to 1842. I discovered that not only did she become a prolific and well recognized painter from the 18th-19th century, but that she was friend and one of Marie-Antoinette's favorite artists, and was invited to not only paint portraits of the queen and the queen and her children, but rooms and ceilings in Versailles, especially noteworthy, the chapel...

Here are some pictures that I took this recent trip...

another self portrait....

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This past Friday, the showing of Marie-Antoinette and the Petit Trianon at Versailles was opened at San Francisco's Legion of Honor. This is the first time that any of these pieces have ever left France. There simplicity, and intricacy, craftsmanship and style, established a foundation for color and style to come... So it was a treat beyond belief to spend time in their beauty and in the presence of SIX Elizabeth Vigée-LeBrun paintings!!! Ulla came as my guest. She arrived upon my porch with tail and all...

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We then proceeded to place our "mouches" which is "fly" in French and the word for those little black beauty marks!

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Here's a little map, or "mouchology", that Ulla gave me along with five mouches!!! For where ever you place these beauty marks has a secret meaning...

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Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed within the special exhibits at the Legion of Honor so here are some befores and afters and a final view of two of Élizabeth Vigée-LeBrun's most famous paintings...

The flower decorations were gorgeous... but not quite as lovely as Ulla...

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Some how... food always makes it into my posts... Ulla and I shared a lovely lunch at the Legion of Honor's café while waiting for the exhibit to open...

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And browsed afterward in the gift shop where we were tempted, oh let me tell you!!!

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In closing this longggg post, I will leave you with these two paintings... They were both painted the same year by LeBrun, in 1783. The first caused quite a stir when LeBrun placed the painting in the Salon in Paris. People were outraged, claiming that the queen was being shown in underwear, or common folk dress... Notice, no jewelry, simple head attire, although a bit of a flare with the feather in her straw hat, and the muted roses, and modest decolletage...

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LeBrun removed the painting and painted the following. The queen's pose, facial expression, and hand positions are exactly the same. However, now she is wearing a form-fitting fancy satin dress with intricate lace, low decolletage, hair frizzed and powdered in the style of the time, fancy hat with many feathers, neck and wrists adorned with pearls, and her hands hold a dazzling pink rose... this painting was accepted, but the grumbles and projections of people from afar and near Marie-Antoinette continued to grow...

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I believe the first painting shows more of the true personality and feelings of the Marie-Antoinette that has come to be layered with so many projections and fables that the real woman is hidden from us all... except in tiny glimpses here and there and in these portraits. Oh how I would love to know just what transpired in the conversations between these two women...

I continue to be fascinated by this entire period of time... and now, I can't believe its true... but I would hop on a plane tomorrow just to wander the grounds of the Petit Trianon...