Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A quick look at Madame Elisabeth by Joseph Ducreaux, 1770

[credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais / Daniel Arnaudet]

This portrait of a young Madame Elisabeth by Joseph Ducreux was painted in 1770, the same year that her new sister-in-law, Marie Antoinette, arrived from Vienna.

 [credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais / Daniel Arnaudet]

Elisabeth would have been only 5 or 6 at the time of the sitting. Although like many painted children, her face seems more mature than her years, there is still an element of cherubic youthfulness to her face in this portrait. This is exemplified by the simple nature of her headdress, which seems to be hiding a relatively simple and unadorned hairstyle.

[credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais / Daniel Arnaudet]

Elisabeth is holding a small dog, likely a pug puppy, in the painting. Pugs during this time period had longer snouts and legs than their modern counterparts; it was not until about the 1860s that pugs with flatter faces and stouter bodies began to find their way onto the laps of the elite.

The  lace details on her dress and her sleeve are also clear in this cropped detail from the portrait. I especially love the delicacy of the lace on her dress and bodice. The dress Elisabeth is wearing also appears less formal (and much more comfortable!) than some of the dresses worn by many European royalty in portraits, despite their young ages. Perhaps this portrait was intended for her private apartments, rather than any sort of formal display.

Ducreaux's portrait of the young Elisabeth was recently displayed as part of the recent Madame Elisabeth exhibition in France.


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