Artist profile: Vigée Le Brun – Russia

Artist profile: Vigée Le Brun – Russia

Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art,
in several segments.

 
All images were sourced from The Art of Elizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun.

 
Just as in Italy and Austria, Vigée Le Brun enjoyed great success in Russia. She lived in St. Petersburg, painting aristocrats and royalty, including Empress Maria.

Countess Anna Ivanovna Tolstoi leaning against a rock (1795-1801)
Countess Anna Ivanovna Tolstoi leaning against a rock (1795-1801)

Elisabeth Isabelle Mniszech (1797)
Elisabeth Isabelle Mniszech (1797)

Vigée Le Brun had painted her daughter Julie as Flora the same year, but I think the one of the Princess below is better.
Princess Eudocia Ivanovna Galitzine as Flora (1799).
Princess Eudocia Ivanovna Galitzine as Flora (1799)

Varvara Ivanovna Ladomirsky (1800)
Varvara Ivanovna Ladomirsky (1800)

In 1800, the Hermitage Museum asked for a self-portrait, and she was inducted into the Academy of Fine Arts.
Self portrait for the Hermitage Museum (1800)
Self portrait commissioned by the Hermitage Museum (1800). The woman on the canvas is Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alekseyevna.

Also in 1800, Julie met and quickly became smitten with a Mr. Nigris, the secretary of a count. Vigée Le Brun adored her daughter and, wishing her to marry the best man possible, investigated him. She received conflicting reports, but as he had no money and may have been after Vigée Le Brun’s own fortune, she tried to dissuade Julie from marriage. Their relationship became strained.

Julie fell ill, either acting or from stress, and Vigée Le Brun relented, writing her ex-husband to give his permission for Julie to marry. Julie suspected her mother of sabotaging the engagement even after his letter, approving the marriage, arrived.

Julie married Nigris; he was 30 and she was 17. In her memoirs, Vigée Le Brun talks about how very quickly Julie’s infatuation died: “The day after my daughter’s wedding I went to see her. I found her placid and unelated over her bliss. Being at her house again a fortnight later, I made the inquiry, ‘You are very happy, I trust, now that you are married to him?’ Mr. Nigris, who was talking with some one else, had his back turned to us, and, since he was afflicted with a severe cold, had a heavy great coat on his shoulders. She replied, ‘I confess that fur coat is disenchanting; how could you expect me to be smitten with such a figure as that?’ Thus a fortnight had sufficed for love to evaporate.”

Their relationship never recovered. Vigée Le Brun also received news that her mother had died in the past few months. Heartbroken and distraught, she left Russia. Next week, we’ll follow her to Germany, England, Switzerland, and France.

Other parts in the Vigée Le Brun artist profile series
France
Italy
Austria
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