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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:03

Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait with her Daughter, Julie

Video transcript

[Music] we're in the Louvre in Paris looking at a self-portrait by the artist VJ Lebrun but interestingly a portrait with her daughter Julie being a mother who has a daughter named Julie I especially love this painting when we think about late 18th century painting we so often think of grand history painting or mythological subjects and here we see a modest portrait that is all about intimacy dejay Lebrun was the official court painter - the queen of France - Marie Antoinette and the year this was painted 1789 is the year of the French Revolution only a couple of years from now Marie Antoinette will be beheaded by the revolutionaries and VJ Lebrun herself will leave France she'll have her citizenship revoked because of her support of the monarchy and less than a decade later her citizenship will be restored she was held in extremely high regard by the French painting establishment it's important to remember that there were only four positions available to women artists within the Royal Academy of Fine Arts the institution and control of the Fine Arts in France as a woman artist she was up against many many obstacles that her male colleagues didn't face the brilliance of this painting makes clear why she was accepted into the Academy and that brilliance to me is in how much the faces and those gestures communicate the affection of a mother and daughter when this was painted the monarchy was being accused of living a life that was in early one of artifice out of touch with normal people in France and this is a painting that is all about authenticity feature they brought herself moved among the aristocracy and in a sense as painting is establishing that authenticity and aristocracy were not mutually exclusive one of my favorite passages is the way the Julie's right eye is nestled against the artists neck shadowed by her chin there is this wonderful sense of touch look at the way that the arms reach around and you can almost feel those small hands and to me the Jay LeBrun's eyes communicate sheer pleasure in this embrace of her daughter and their bodies together form a pyramid they form this single shape as though they're merged together as one and there's a sense of genuine affection here that I think you're right was not something associated with the aristocracy and to assert that natural genuine emotion as something that is felt by people who move in very high circles like the Jay LeBron had a political dimension to it you can see that also in the dress the artist is rendering herself in a dress that recalls the ancient Greek and this style Allah Grec was part of this idea in the late 18th century that one can go back to a style that botha Nobles but is in some ways more inherently natural more simple more direct in contrast to the ornate hoop skirts and gowns often worn during formal occasions look at Vijay LeBrun's hair the curls are unruly there is an informality that did have this political dimension although I would say it is a study the informality there's something very contingent here that embrace only lasts a moment it only lasts for a moment but the feeling of affection is universal and timeless as a LeBron was successful among the aristocracy in Europe broadly this was a woman who moved easily among the royal courts of Europe and was highly successful in Russia in Austria in Italy and in London although there were many difficulties faced by women artists it's fascinating to see a woman as successful as Vijay Lebrun presenting herself so powerfully as a mother [Music]