Adelaide Labille-Guiard:
The Comtesse de Selve Making Music

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas 1787
    • 35 1/2 x 28 3/8 inches
    • Private Collection, New York

At the Salon of 1787, Labille-Guiard exhibited a work which was identified only as "Madame de *** faisant de la musique." Subsequently, the sitter has been identifified as the Countess de Selve. Labille-Guiard paints her as a practical down-to-earth character who stares out at the viewer with little pretense, dispite her imposing hat and feather. Labille-Guiard always had her subjects dress in their finest garments, even when engaged in everyday activities.

The remarkable thing about this portrait is the dress and hat. The music book seems almost an afterthought. No contemporary, however, was so successful in capturing the gorgeous apparel of ancien-regime feminine finery. This has given rise to the charge that these women artists could only paint "feminine subjects." Although the corpus of her works is indeed rather limited, Labille-Guiard's technical mastery is unquestioned.

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