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Vigée Le Brun, Madame Perregaux

Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Madame Perregaux, 1789, oil on oak panel, 99.6 x 78.5 cm (Wallace Collection, London) Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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Video transcript

(soft piano music) Lady: This is a remarkable portrait. It's so life-like. I love her dress, her collar, her bow, and her hat, and the feather, when the curtain she pulls away, and how she peaks out at something. Man: It's so animated. It's really wonderful. For all of the artifist, all of the complexity, and the attention to costume. It's not only very natural, but she comes through. For the energy and curiosity, it feels if you get a sense of who she really is. Lady: Oh! Completely. This is [completion] by her husband here in the eve of the French Revolution. Her name is Madame Perregaux. This is a portrait by Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun. Man: I think it's really interesting since ... look at the way the painting is constructed. She's taken a very simple composition and a very traditional one of a woman, through the half -length portrait, with a curtain on one side, and an open space on the other at a balcony. She's created, first of all, the sense of the Revelation, by pulling the curtain back. Lady: Kind of a little drama. Man: Absolutely. Then she's also formally constructing that lovely arch on the lower right. That begins then to set off a couple of other arch's. The arch's of her arms, of her collar, of her hat, and then of that lovely red ribbon that trims her waistcoat. Lady: She's taken a formal element of that broke curtain we see behind figures in portraits and made it something much more playful. Man: Yeah. It really engaging it. It's just I think a masterful example of how the portrait can be brought to life. (piano music)