DAVID, Jacques-Louis
(b. 1748, Paris, d. 1825, Bruxelles)

Portrait of Madame Adélaide Pastoret

Oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm
Art Institute, Chicago

In the first period of the Revolution, David continued to paint portraits of the cultivated upper classes and aristocracy. In 1790 he had painted the Marquise d'Orvilliers and the Countess de Sorcy, and around this time he also painted Madame Adelaide Pastoret, who, although of the upper class, is shown as a wife and mother without display of finery. The politics of the day called for homely virtues to be emphasized and any display of rank or status would have been considered suspect. Like so many of David's paintings of the Revolution, this work was not finished, as we can see from the incomplete quickly brushed shimmering background (frottis) and the absence of a sewing needle in Madame's hand. In all probability there was a split between the Pastorets and David over the latter's increasingly extreme politics, which meant that the portrait was left in its present state.