"Countess Bucquoi" by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

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Countess Bucquoi (1793)
Copyright held by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

This beautiful portrait combines a sublime landscape with a woman dressed in a largely conventional domestic day dress. The one exotic note that seems appropriate to the mountains of the background is the turban. As is typical of day dress, the dress is worn over a thin muslin shirt or fichu which covers the chest. (Evening dress typically is low cut.) The dress itself is simple, accentuated by sash and shawl of bright red. The Countess is painted with the shadows beneath her eyes showing, a touch of realism that adds to the portrait's power. We sense this is a patient women, content to pose endlessly for famed female painter. The Countess looks confident; she needs no elaborate gown, jewels, or pose to validate herself, nor do we see any of the "props" that typically point to the things that give the sitter self-worth. Such props commonly include books, paints, musical instruments, children, sewing, etc.

Portraits by Le Brun, the Early Years
Portraits by Le Brun, after 1800
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