(b. 1755, Paris, d. 1842, Paris)

Woman's Head

Charcoal and coloured chalk on blue paper, 479 x 405 mm
École des Beaux-Arts, Paris

This picture, showing the head of an attractive woman, made by the then greatly esteemed portrait painter Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, recalls the Rococo. In pastel - a popular medium in the 18th century - the artist modeled the laurel-wreath head of an allegorical figure of peace over a preparatory drawing in black chalk. The work was intended as a study for a painting (La paix ramenant l'Abondance). While the theme and technique are conventional, the flattened composition and the idealized beauty of the head with its cool lustrous and porcelain-like skin tones correspond to Classicist ideas.