This youthful self-portrait depicts Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun at the age of about twenty-six, several years after she painted the first of her many portraits of Queen Marie-Antoinette. Here she presents herself not as an artist, with palette and brushes, but as a charming and attractive lady of society––indistinguishable from her own patrons, including the queen and aristocratic ladies, whom she sometimes painted in similar informal attire. Largely self-taught, Vigée Le Brun was recommended by the queen for membership in the Royal Academy in 1783 and soon acquired considerable fame and renown. When shown at the Salon her paintings were “the most highly praised . . . the topics of conversation at court and in Paris, in suppers, in literary circles."
Her radiant self-portrait highlights Vigée Le Brun’s healthy good looks and creamy complexion, a sparkling light catching her eyes and crystal earrings. Attentive to the latest fashions, she outfitted her sitters in comfortable Grecian gowns and scarves. Here her simple muslin gown and elegant scheme of white, black, and cherry, along with her loose curls of hair, convey an appealingly glamorous persona.