"Emma Hart, The Future Lady Hamilton, As Ariadne"

by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

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Emma Hart, The Future Lady Hamilton, As Ariadne (1790)
This painting was done at the time Emma Hart was openly living abroad as a man's mistress. The erotic overtones are therefore more open and direct. With a subject who is a publicly "damned" woman, Le Brun had little fear of offending her buyer on the grounds of "indecency." The use of the classical myth, moreover, "sanctified" the scanty garb and provocative pose. Emma Hart was famous for dancing naked on a table in front of a number of aristocratic men; this portrait seems to capture the appeal of a woman who obsessed Europe and inspired the most decorous proper young women to pose in "Lady Hamilton's Shawl Postures." To see other costumes of the age, go to the Masquerade Dress page.

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