The last picture that Michael L. Rosenberg purchased for his collection was “Portrait of Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva, née Hitrovo,” painted by Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun in Saint Petersburg. Vigée-Lebrun was a great portrait painter, who, like Anne Vallayer-Coster, achieved success in a field that was dominated by men. She worked for the aristocracy and royal family—particularly for Marie Antoinette. On the day the Parisian mob invaded Versailles, Vigée-Lebrun went into exile. By 1795, her various travels in Europe had brought her to Russia where elite women could afford to hire the French modistes (milliners or dressmakers) who had settled in Moscow and Saint Petersburg during the French Revolution.
In her portrait by Vigée-Lebrun, Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva, who has a classical prop in the form of Jean Racine’s play “Iphigénie” on a green velvet cushion in front of her, wears a yellow cashmere shawl (the latest fashionable accessory) over a blue silk wrapping dress, a simple style derived from a dressing gown. A delicate neoclassical bracelet of gold and enamel, over her long sleeve, decorates her wrist. Kolycheva is depicted with a classical-style muslin bandeau in her hair. Kept in place by fine gold chains, which hold a locket probably containing a miniature of a loved one, a long fine white muslin or silk gauze scarf trails through Kolycheva’s hair, winds round her neck, and modestly covers her décolletage. Vigée-Lebrun combined high fashion with the mood of classical antiquity, giving her sitters a kind of “Vogue” glossiness alongside a sense of the timeless in the way her sitters’ shawls suggest figures on a Greek vase or in a Roman wall painting.
Philip Conisbee, "Michael L. Rosenberg's Eighteenth Century," in “French Art of the Eighteenth Century: The Michael L. Rosenberg Lecture Series at the Dallas Museum of Art,” ed. Heather MacDonald (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art and the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 2016), 22–23.
Aileen Ribeiro, "The Mirror of History: The Art of Dress in Late Eighteenth-Century France," in “French Art of the Eighteenth Century: The Michael L. Rosenberg Lecture Series at the Dallas Museum of Art,” ed. Heather MacDonald (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art and the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 2016), 152–54.