The Duchesse de Grammont-Caderousse

23 May 2010

A gorgeous summery portrait of the undeniably lovely Marie-Gabrielle de Sinéty, Duchesse de Grammont-Caderousse, painted in 1784 by Madame Vigée-Lebrun. Following the fashion of the day, the Duchesse was painted in the guise of a peasant girl, artfully arranging fruit in a basket.

As I detested the female style of dress then in fashion, I bent all my efforts upon rendering it a little more picturesque, and was delighted when, after getting the confidence of my models, I was able to drape them according to my fancy. Shawls were not yet worn, but I made an arrangement with broad scarfs lightly intertwined round the body and on the arms, which was an attempt to imitate the beautiful drapings of Raphael and Domenichino. The picture of my daughter playing the guitar is an example. Besides, I could not endure powder. I persuaded the handsome Duchess de Grammont-Caderousse to put none on for her sittings. Her hair was ebony black, and I divided it on the forehead, disposing it in irregular curls. After the sitting, which ended at the dinner hour, the Duchess would not change her headdress, but go to the theatre as she was. A woman of such good looks would, of course, set a fashion: indeed, this mode of doing the hair soon found imitators, and then gradually became general. This reminds me that in 1786, when I was painting the Queen, I begged her to use no powder, and to part her hair on the forehead. “I should be the last to follow that fashion,” said the Queen, laughing; “I do not want people to say that I adopted it to hide my large forehead.“‘ – Memoirs of Madame Vigée-Lebrun.

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