The painting I have chosen has been painted by Louise Elizabeth VigĂ©e-Lebrun. It is entitled “Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsbourg, reine de France et ses enfants”ť, which is translated as “Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsbourg, Queen of France, and her children”ť. It has been painted in 1787, with oil on canvas. At the moment it is located in Mars Salon, though in the Google Art Project it is positioned as an exhibit of the Palace of Versailles. The size of the canvas is 271 cm by height and 195 cm by width.
The painting presents Queen Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsbourg surrounded by her children; the oldest is a girl, who is lovingly looking at her mother and holding her arm. Then, there is a boy, who stands near an empty cradle with black linen. The cradle symbolizes one more child, who died in infancy. Finally, there is the youngest son of the Queen on her knees. The painting does not include many decorations, but the atmosphere is definitely cozy and warm. Though the painting is static, it seems that the family has been caught suddenly in some daily routine at an intimate moment, but at the same time their faces and poses are welcoming and friendly.
As for the formal visual elements, there are no tough lines, all the space is filled with adequate elements and with the play of colors, of light and shade, but without contrasts and collisions. There no sharp forms; instead, all the elements are roundish, soft and at the same time highly detailed. Though the portrait is realistic, the texture is very specific and creating a sense that you are looking at it through haze or in a dream. The painting is not static absolutely; in fact, gestures of children add dynamics to the image. Overall impression is positive and gentle due to the prevailing light; the darkness of the shades is not rough enough to depress the perception, but is thick enough to create the atmosphere of intimacy and comfort. Finally, the colors are bright and vivid, but they are delicate and conciliative.
The painting represents the style of rococo and neoclassicism. The end of the 18th century was a time to return to the ideals of the epoch of Renaissance, with its worshiping of human beauty and providing an optimistic impression for the viewer. The typical traits of rococo were refinement, high saturation of interiors and composition with decorative elements, graceful ornamental rhythm and high attention to the individual comfort. To a great extent the painting of Elizabeth VigĂ©e-Lebrun corresponds to this description. It is really full of grace and illusion of some exclusiveness, though VigĂ©e-Lebrun did not overload her work with decorative elements. They are just enough in number to reflect the historical and stylish furniture and scenery, therefore there is a noticeable shift to neoclassicism which appreciated clearness and accuracy of forms and lines.
For the moment the work was finished, it had a great importance for both the painter and the Queen. The intention of the author was to improve the reputation of the monarch, who was discredited and disregarded by certain scandals. That is why is was important to create a new image of the Queen, to show her being pure and loving in a circle of her beloved children, to show her not only as a ruler, but as a caring mother in cozy home surroundings. For the painter it was a valuable task not only because she was considered the official painter of the court, but because she really loved and respected this woman, and the affection is seen in the manner she reflected her. What is more, like any other historical portrait, this painting is significant as a document making us acquainted with the conditions of the epoch.
On the whole, I think Elizabeth VigĂ©e-Lebrun absolutely succeeded in fulfilling her task, and created a truly attractive and sympathetic image of the Queen and her family. The painting looks peaceful and, to be honest, devours my mind to the end. It is full of royal dignity on the one hand and of charming family intimacy on the other hand, and this contrast is the first thing that attracted me to this portrait and provoked my curiosity to learn more about the Queen and about her reign as well. In fact, these nice figures do not look like true-to-life people, as they look like beautiful dolls and it fills the painting with total fairy-like atmosphere, but on the whole the pleasant feelings are dominating.
On the whole, I sincerely appreciate the opportunities provided by the Google Art Project, while you can visit so many museums and galleries without leaving your arm-chair; besides, here you can improve your cultural awareness and upgrade it, as you can not only look at the masterpieces, but get a lot of interesting and useful information about them and their authors. When I understood how to navigate, I found it easy and comfortable, and certainly I appreciated that I could zoom and look at the smallest details of the artwork.
VigĂ©e-Lebrun, Louise Elizabeth. Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsbourg, reine de France et ses enfants. 1787. Google Art Project. Web. 22 July 2011.