sassy art history

The execution of the portrait was complicated by all kinds of annoyances principally caused by Caroline Murat’s caprices, rudeness, and lack of consideration for the artist. She would arrive late for sittings or not show up at all. She would change her hairstyle, outfit, and jewellery during the intervals between sittings, thereby repeatedly forcing her portraitist to scrape off and repaint parts of the composition. Vigée Le Brun was so irritated by her subject’s poor manners that she observed in a voice loud enough to be overheard by Caroline Murat herself: “I have painted real princesses who have never tormented me or kept me waiting.” This stinging comment summarized Vigée Le Brun’s disdainful attitude toward the nobility of the Empire, which she never viewed as legitimate. Not too surprisingly, no further official commission would be forthcoming during the Empire.

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun: The Odyssey of an Artist in an Age of Revolution, by Gita May