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When Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun met Emma Hamilton

9 July 2016 by Xanthe

painting of a woman holding a tambourine

‘Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante’ by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun

We know quite a lot about Vigée Le Brun’s portrait of Emma Hamilton, and what she thought of Emma, because in the mid 1820s, towards the end of a long painting career of more than 50 years, she decided to write up her diaries and publish them as memoirs in 1836-37.

Vigée first met Emma when the artist arrived in Naples in 1790, having fled Paris with her 9 year old daughter, at the start of the French Revolution in 1789. Vigée was given refuge by the Queen of Naples, the sister of the French Queen Marie-Antoinette, whose favourite portrait painter was Vigée. When she fled Paris she left her art-dealer husband, Jean-Baptiste Le Brun, behind to protect the family house and studio contents. He was later forced by the French Revolutionary government to divorce her to retain their property. She spent the next 12 years travelling around the courts of continental Europe visiting cities in Italy, Austria and Russia, making a successful living by painting portraits of royalty, aristocrats and their courtiers.  Read more…



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