She was born in Paris on 16 April 1755, Marie Élisabeth-Louise Vigée, the daughter of a portraitist and fan painter, Louis Vigée, from whom she received her first instruction. Her mother was a hairdresser. She was sent to live with relatives in Epernon until the age of 6 when she entered a convent where she remained for five years. Her father died when she was 12 years old. In 1768, her mother married a wealthy jeweler, Jacques-Francois Le Sèvre and the family moved to the rue Saint-Honoré close to the Palais Royal. During this period Elisabeth benefited by the advice of Gabriel François Doyen, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Joseph Vernet, and other masters of the period.
Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat by Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, after 1782.
By the time she was in her early teens, Elisabeth was painting portraits professionally. After her studio was seized, for practicing without a license, she applied to the Académie de Saint Luc, which unwillingly exhibited her works in their Salon. On 25 October 1774, she was made a member of the Académie.
Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun painted several self-portraits that were hugely successful in the Paris Salons, and was influential in pioneering an "informal" fashion style at the end of the Ancien Regime.
Self-Portrait in a Turban with Her Child 1786, Musee du Louvre, Paris , France
On 7 August 1775 she married Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, a painter and art dealer. On 12 February 1780, Vigée-Le Brun gave birth to a daughter Jeanne Julie Louise, whom she called "Julie".
Vigée-Le Brun painted portraits of many of the nobility of the day and as her career blossomed, she was invited to the Palace of Versailles to paint Marie Antoinette, the French Queen consort.
So pleased was the queen that over the next several years, Vigée-Le Brun was commissioned to do numerous portraits of the queen, her children, and other members of the royal family and household.
Presumably she used mirrors to capture her own image, but you know how poor the mirrors were in those days. In this day and age we use muriatic acid to get the musty effect that was normal then. Not only that, but how in the world did she keep that child quiet enough to pose?? Gives new meaning to stunt doubles. Still and all, it's pretty amazing work....the hands, the faces. I love her turbaned curls.
I've been thinking about the recent spate of self-portraits that all look like egg heads and rather Modigliani-ish. I guess the new thing is NOT to use a mirror.