Painting portraits of Marie-Antoinette

After painting the first major official portrait of Marie-Antoinette in 1778, to everybody’s satisfaction, Vigée Le Brun was regularly asked to portray the Queen.
17 November 2015
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Portrait de Marie Antoinette en robe de mousseline dite ‘à la créole’, ‘en chemise’ ou ‘en gaulle’. © Hessische Hausstiftung, Kronberg im Taunus
Perfectly in line with the traditional role of a courtier, she always remained faithful, i.e. reproducing a good likeness but also enhancing the beauty of the model. She was a great success.

However, in 1783, she took some liberties when she depicted her wearing a «robe en gaulle». When the portrait was exhibited, it provoked indignation. Critics were surprised that such a noble model could appear in such an intimate gown. For all that, the artist did not lose any patrons among royalty or at the court.

The way she rendered complexions, fabrics and other materials, her unusual colour contrasts and subtle effects of light and shade pleased her select clientèle and ensured her success.
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