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Extra info for Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun: The Odyssey of an Artist in an Age of Revolution
Finally, while Lunden keeps her arms and hands demurely and idly crossed above her waist, Vigée Le Brun extends her right hand in an open, welcoming gesture, while her left hand ﬁrmly grips a palette and brushes, a proud and self-conﬁdent proclamation of herself as both subject and artist. In her memoir Vigée Le Brun notes with undisguised satisfaction that her Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat was largely instrumental in her election to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1783. She emphasizes the fact that the initiative did not come from her but rather from one of her mentors, the painter Joseph Vernet (I, 76).
He struck her as a man of small stature and cold demeanor, but one with exquisite manners: “He stayed a long time in my atelier and told me a thousand ﬂattering things” (I, 52). Vigée Le Brun could not resist mentioning in Souvenirs this connection with one of the leading Enlightenment philosophes, and even quoting in full his letter to her (I, 51 – 52). It is noteworthy that, as portraitist of Marie-Antoinette, émigrée, and staunch monarchist she could never quite bring herself to 26 MARRIAGE renege on her early personal and artistic ties with some of the leaders of the Enlightenment movement.
Thanks to his wife’s increasing earnings, however, he was able to enlarge his collection and keep his business going. The house that the Le Bruns occupied on the rue de Cléry o¤ered an impressive display of luxury and art that had little connection with the ﬁnancial realities of the couple. If Elisabeth’s marriage turned out to be a personal failure, it nevertheless helped to further her career as an artist, for it opened doors that otherwise would most probably have remained shut had she chosen to remain a single woman artist.