As the art historian Mary Sherrif proposes, the subject of Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun's Self Portrait 1790 is undeniably the artist herself, and the art of painting. In this composition her face lit by bounced light Vigee-LeBrun looks towards the spectator, she is seated upright, posed and poised very much in an aristocratic manner in front of her canvas. She holds a paint brush in one hand, and a palette and collection of brushes in the other sketching a portrait of Marie-Antionette.
Sheriff suggests that at the essence of Vigee-Lebrun's self-portrait lies the act of painting, the will to art; where the artist's playing of roles; between artist and sitter testify simultaneously switching between the vanity and irony that concomitantly is depictive of artistic dedication to self-portraiture. There appears a desire to proclaim; through the representation of Vigee-LeBrun herself, and a necessity to move past; through the partial illustration of Marie-Antionette and the act of painting, the feeling of one-ness.
Accordingly as Sheriff states, "Making the portrait was itself a gesture of self affirmation" whereby Vigee-Lebrun not only highlights her role as a proficient artist; a woman artist at her easel with brushes and palette in hand, but she underscores her formally important position as a painter to the Queen by depicting an unfinished likeness of Marie-Antionette on her canvas. She is utilizing her skills as a woman artisan to promote herself through the large scale of the composition; 100cm x 80cm in dimensions, much the same way she was commissioned to immortalize her patrons such as Marie-Antionette.
In this painting Vigee-Lebrun projects an air of importance. Her excessively formal style although associated with the rigid system she overcame, meets with approval and acceptance in the male dominated art environment. It is worth noting that it was only through the intervention...