Germaine de Staël

2 May 2020

Today’s painting by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun is her portrait of the feminist writer Germaine de Staël (1766-1817), who was born on this day, which she started during a visit to Germaine’s Lake Geneva mansion Coppet in 1807 and completed two years later. Having just read Germaine’s controversial novel Corinne, Vigée Le Brun chose to depict her sitter as the eponymous heroine – a poetic young woman

However, even Vigée Le Brun’s flattering brush could transform Germaine (whom I love so I am trying not to be unkind here) into a beauty and the writer was understandably horrified by the finished work. She refused to allow it to be displayed at the Salon and commissioned a more flattering version from the Swiss artist Firmin Massot.