The Vicomtesse de Vaudreuil
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Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun
French, 1785
Oil on panel
32 3/4 x 25 1/2 in.

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On an oval panel, a young woman poses in front of a landscape. Smiling slightly, she looks candidly out at the viewer.

The sitter, Victoire-Pauline de Riquet de Carama, was an aristocrat and her status improved when she married Jean-Louis, Vicomte de Vaudreuil in 1781. The artist Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun emphasized the Vicomtesse's status and refinement by carefully describing her fashionable straw hat, silk dress, and gauze scarf, collar, and cuffs. Displaying her learning, the Vicomtesse places her right thumb in her book to mark her place, as if she has been interrupted while reading. Vigée Le Brun adopted this obvious gesture, often used in men's portraits, to illustrate women's importance in French Enlightenment circles.