Smart Secrets of Great Paintings episode 8 – Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun

Smart Secrets of Great Paintings episode 8 - Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun

Smart Secrets of Great Paintings episode 8 – Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun: As the French Revolution approached, Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun painted the queen’s portrait in an attempt to win back public opinion.
This documentary examines the historical and social context in which “Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsbourg, Queen of France and Her Children” was painted. It analyzes the work’s composition and symbolism in terms of motherhood and political legitimacy, and attempts to counter the queen’s reputation for debauchery. It also includes a discussion of Le Brun’s background, Italian and Flemish influences, and her unique position as court portraitist in a male dominated field. Finally, we learn how the work was received by the Paris Salon and by the French people.




This series explores history of art in a totally new way. The painting comes to life, as animation overrides the limits of the frame, taking us to the heart of the canvass and plunging us into its era and history. This series of 10 half-hour programs shows how a painted image echos the spirit of its time and relates to a particular historic event. It reveals the poetic, sociological and political potential of the picture by penetrating inside the painting and examine the underlining details, thanks to work of computer graphics which livens up characters, objects and sets.

Each film tells a fascinating story of a creator and the painting process. The great works of the past portray abundant testimonies, and are imbued with secrets and are teeming with mysteries. Beneath the surface of the painting, details awaken, to recount the spirit of the times and the vagaries of History, such as wars, revolutions, economic transformation, scientific discovery, beliefs and schools of thought.


Smart Secrets of Great Paintings episode 8 – Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun


Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun also known as Madame Le Brun, was a French portrait painter, especially of women, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Her artistic style is generally considered part of the aftermath of Rococo with elements of an adopted Neoclassical style. Her subject matter and color palette can be classified as Rococo, but her style is aligned with the emergence of Neoclassicism. Vigée Le Brun created a name for herself in Ancien Régime society by serving as the portrait painter to Marie Antoinette. She enjoyed the patronage of European aristocrats, actors, and writers, and was elected to art academies in ten cities.

Vigée Le Brun created 660 portraits and 200 landscapes. In addition to many works in private collections, her paintings are owned by major museums, such as the Louvre Paris, Uffizi Florence, Hermitage Museum Saint Petersburg, National Gallery in London, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and many other collections in continental Europe and the United States.

Between 1835 and 1837, when Vigée Le Brun was in her 80s, she published her memoirs in three volumes (Souvenirs).

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