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Art. I.-Souvenirs de Madame Louise their society, her frankness, her ingenuous
Elizabeth Vigée Lebrun. (Recollections simplicity, would convince us of her veraciof Madame Lebrun.) 3 Vols. Paris. H. ty. Moreover, the anecdotes she relates are Fournier, Jeune, 1836.
so well known among the remnants of the
circle in which she lived, that any exaggeIn our last number' we had the pleasure ration or falsehood would be immediately of rescuing some French memoirs from the detected. Another great charm in these sweeping anathema of our contemporaries, memoirs lies in their being eminently femiand we now return to the task with consi- nine and wholly without pretension, therederable satisfaction. Madame Vigée Le by proving, what we have often had occabrun, who writes her own history, is still sion to remark, that real talent never prealive, and one of the most delightful old la- tends. The first of her time as a portrait dies that France produces ; she has passed painter, bewitchingly beautiful, gifted with her 80th year, but preserves her faculties in a lovely voice and musical powers, well the most surprising manner, gathers her cir- read in all that concerned her art, flattered, cle around her, and, to use the words of one admired, and followed, this celebrated woof our mutual friends, "she is still gifted man has preserved an excellent reputation ; with all the qualities of her youth; her con- and, surrounded in all the countries which versation is rendered still more interesting she visited by every thing that could spoil from having read and seen a great deal, and her, she seems not to have had one spark of she is one of the happiest specimens of those coquetry, or for one instant to have laid good times, when grace, affability, and po- aside her original nature. Her alarms, her lished manners were appreciated in society." disgusts, her dislikes, are all those of a woFor our own parts, we hail the appearance man who has preserved all her simplicity of of the memoirs before us as likely to afford character, and at the same time do not betray the most agreeable mixture of truth and vi- a single error on the side of Alippancey, vulvacity, and we hope to instil the same feel-garity, or conceit. ings into our readers as we proceed. They Some are of opinion that the minute deare partly addressed to the Princess Koura- tails of biography partake of egotism, and kin, having been begun at her request, and, that the more elevated parts of life alone after her death, continued in the form of a ought to be recorded. From this we beg narrative. The style is lively and elegant, leave to differ, for it is in little things that and impresses us with the idea that it flows we can assimilate others to ourselves : it is from the pen of an animated, amiable, and in these that many who are capable of greatrefined woman; and, did we not ourselves ness yet want a lesson ; they form the huknow that she lived in close intimacy with man part of us, they form our daily interthe distinguished persons whom she de course with our fellow beings, and it is scribes, not only because she painted their chiefly in them that the affections lie: heportraits
, but because she was admitted into | roes and heroines may be admired and apVOL. XX.
plauded, but it does not at all follow that I mistaken, for, although the retired jeweller they must be loved ; and we are convinced was a man of substance, he was dreadfully that the perusal of these little workings of avaricious, and deprived his family of althe human heart does us more good than most every enjoyment; he not only look that of a splendid action which we may possession of the money earned by his stepnever be called upon to perform. We, daughter, but wore all the clothes left by his therefore, do not quarrel with Madame Le predecessor, and, as Madame Lebrun innoburn for all her minutiæ, and we wish that cently says, “ he did not even get them alothers would follow her example, and lay tered, to fit him, and it increased her disgust their hearts bare before us.
towards him." The maiden name of our author before This must have been a season of great us was Vigée; at six years of age she was temptation for her, for she was not only plaeed in a convent, and did not quit it until sought for on account of her lalents as an she was eleven ; during this period she gave artist, but for the charms of her conversaproof of her prevailing talent, for she filled tion; and several noblemen sat to her for the margins of her own and her companions' their portraits for the pleasure of being in copy-books with heads, and was often pu- her company; but, to use her own expresnished for drawing them on the walls of the sion, she painted " à regards perdus;" her sleeping-room with a piece of charcoal. At mother always by her side, and her exceleight years age she drew the head of an lent precepts, and the devotion which she old man with a long beard on paper, which felt for her art, enabled her to resist the seshe took home to her father, who, struck | ductions which the most brilliant men of the with the talent it displayed, exclaimed, court offered to her, and the acceptance of " You will be a painter, my child, or there which would place her out of the reach of never will be another.” M. Vigée himself one who made her domestic life miserable. painted in crayons and in oils, in the style Among the celebritēs who then frequented of Watteau, and to him belongs the anecdote her atelier was Count Orloff, one of the which we have seen ascribed to others, assassins of Peter ITI. of Russia, whom she namely, that, when he was painting a lady's describes as a colossal person, who wore an portrait, and came to her mouth, she screw. equally colossal diamond upon his finger, ed it into all sorts of shapes to make it look and not at all prepossessing; but the great smaller, on which he said, “ Do not trouble chamberlain Schouvaloff, the favorite of the yourself
, madam; for, if you please, I will empress Elizabeth, was remarkably polite not make any mouth at all.” From her and pleasing. She was also noticed by mamother Madame Lebrun received the most dame Geoffrin, who was celebrated for gapious instruction, which fortified her mind, thering round her all the wits of the age, and produced the most excellent result in and, who, without birth or fortune, contri. after life ; she was never suffered to read ved to make a living by the charms of her romances till after she married, when the conversation. The favorite promenade in first was Clarissa Harlowe, which made a those days was the garden of the Palais great impression on her : and, while her Royal, which was then of considerable exmother thus formed her character, her fa- tent, and the best of company in France asther improved her tastes and talents by his sembled in its long and wide avenue of beauown lessons, and the society of all the artists tiful trees. The Opera was close by, and and writers of merit who were then living was over at half past eight, when the garHis tenderness and affection seem never to den became full of fashionable ladies carryhave been effaced from his daughter's mind, ing enormous bouquets in their hands, and although he died from swallowing a fish- wearing perfumed powder. Madame Lebone, when she was only thirteen years old. brun's description of these walks, and the Her best consolation under this heavy loss company present, is so lively, that we could was that of assiduously studying the profes- almost fancy that we see them parading in sion for which he and nature had destined their stately dresses. Many of them were her. She, always accompanied by her mo- soon cut off by the hand of the executioner, ther, constantly painted at the Palais Royal, among whom were Philippe-Egalité himfrom those pictures which are now in the self, and the Marquis de Genlis, who used possession of the Duke of Cleveland ; but to amuse themselves with scandalizing every she very soon began to paint for money, in woman who passed by, and whose remark order to add to her mother's slender income, upon herself Madame Lebrun recalls with and to provide for the expenses of her bro pride; the duke exclaimed loud enough to ther's education. At last her mother marri-be heard by every body near, “ As to her ed again, hoping thereby to improve the there is nothing to be said." circumstances of her children ; but she was But the attraction of his wife, who was
still very handsome, and the singular beau- use of time, but in a few minutes she found ty of the daughter, seemed to disturb the herself swinging, and even more amused peace of the jeweller, and he, to the great than the others; it was therefore high time joy of the latter, one day pompously pro- to give up her pupils. The emolument claimed that he had taken a country house arising from them became less desirable for them, where they could walk in peace. ever day, as she could not satisfy all those It, however, proved to be a miserable dwell- who desired to have their portraits painted ing at Chaillon, where the poor young by her; and both her pencil and her converthing would have died from'ennui, but for sation were in request by all that was brilthe kindness of some friends, who took her liant in the most brilliant court in the world. with them on their excursions of pleasure ; Her works of this period convey an idea some of which she describes, and especially of the splendid materials which aided the that to Marly-le-Roi, which was so utterly toilette, but she adhered as little as possible destroyed during the early fury of the Re- to the fashions of the times, which was devolution. A return to Paris was at length testable for artists. She persuaded some lahailed with pleasure, where the young ar. dies to leave off powder, and having suctist was enchanted to resume all her labors, ceeded in tempting the beautiful Duchess de and where she became gradually admitted Grammont-Cadrousse to take out her's, and, into the first society in Paris, her talents after sitting, to go to the opera with her hair being deemed a sufficient reason for setting falling in curls over her shoulders in a picaside the strict forms and stiffness which at- turesque manner, the fashion gradually tend the life of a single woman in France, spread, and the high toupees and bushes of who has any pretension to bon ton. At this frizzled hair from that moment declined. In time she painted two pictures from engrav-drapery also Madame Lebrun tried to effect ings, the one of Cardinal Fleury, and the some improvement, and, taking Raffaëlle other of La Bruyère, both of which she and Domenichino for her models, she arranpresented to the French Academy, and in ged large scarfs in loose folds about the neck, return received a free admission to all its which were a great contrast to the reigning public meetings. This also led to a visit fashion. The graceful costume worn by the from the celebrated D'Alembert, whom she ambassadors from Tippoo Saib having struck describes as “un petit homme, sec et froid, her, she tried to get them to sit to her, but mais d'une politesse exquise."
did not succeed, till the king had asked them The husband of Madame Lebrun was a to do so, and she went to their residence, to dealer in pictures, and first paid his court to perform her task. This led to an invitation the young lady by lending her all the most to herself and friend, on the part of their valuable works which passed through his excellencies, to dinner, and curiosity prompthands, in order to make copies of them, and ed the ladies to accept it. They were served for which she naturally felt grateful. He on the floor, and the ambassadors dipped was supposed to be very rich, and, although their hands into every dish in order to con
friend she had tried to dissuade vey their contents to the plates of their guests her in the strongest terms, her mother urged who were very glad when the entertainment his suit so earnestly, that prompted by affec- was concluded. tion for her, and the hope of escaping from We have heard much of a portrait painther odious step father, she at last yielded hered at this time by Madame Lebrun of Marie hand to him. The marriage was not a hap- Antoinette, and whom in fact she painted py one, for they had few feelings in common. several times; and as the description of a Madame Lebrun loved her profession for its skilful artist may be relied on, we copy her own sake, but her husband as a matter of own words, and they doubtless convey a gain; and, as he was extravagant, he not on- just idea of this unfortunate queen. ly spent all his own profits, but those which arose from the portraits painted by his wife. • It was in the year 1779, that I painted He was not contented even with these, but for the first time the portrait of the queen, he insisted on her taking pupils, almost all then in the flower of youth and beauty. of whom proved to be older than herself.- Marie Antoinette was tall, exquisitely well He had arranged a garret for their reception,
made, sufficiently plump without being too
much so. Her arms were superb, her but it was not likely, with her youth and vi- hands small, perfect in form, and her feet vacity, that she should have much authority charming. Her gait was more graceful over them; as a proof, she one day entered than that of any woman in France: she after they were all assembled, and found held her head very erect, with a majesty them swinging by turns, in a swing which which enabled you to distinguish the sothey had fastened to a beam. At first she vereign amidst all her court, and yet that looked grave, and expostulated on the mis majesty did not in the least detract from
the extreme kindness and benevolence of admitted to the Academy of Painting and her look. In short, it is extremely difficult Sculpture, which was founded by Louis XIV. to convey to any one who has not seen the This Academy was not, in the beginning, inqueen any idea cf all the graces and all the dignity that were combined in her. Her tended to admit females, but two had already features were not regular; she derived crept in, Mesdames Vien and Valleyer, and, from her family that long, narrow oval with these two precedents, M. Vernei insisted peculiar to the Austrian nation. Her eyes on procuring this mark of honor for Ma. were not large, their color was nearly dame Lebrun. M. Pierre, the president opblue, and they had an intellectual and posed it, from the feeling that he was bound mild expression; her nose was thin and
to observe the statutes of the institution, and handsome; her mouth not too large, it became a matter of difficulty and cabal.though the lips were rather thick. But the most remarkable thing about her face Madame Lebrun, however, succeeded, and
Her was the brilliancy of her complexion. I by so doing added to her celebrity. never saw any so brilliant-yes, brilliant presentation picture was, · Peace bringing is the word, for her skin was só transpa-back Abundance," and her reputation for alrent that it took no shade. Hence I never legorical representation placed her nearly on could render its effect so as to please my- a level with historical painters. In the preself; I lacked colors to represent that sent day, all are at liberty to exhibit those freshness, those delicate tones, which be
works which have been approved by a jury longed exclusively to that fascinating face, and which I 'never observed in any chosen from the academy, as in this country;
As for her and the academy has also undergone a conversation, it would be difficult for me change. It now forms a part of the great to describe all its grace, all its benevolence. national institute, is thereby increased in imI do not think that queen Marie Antoinette portance ;—its members are also members ever missed an occasion to say an agree- of the institute, and it can no longer be assiable thing to those who had the honour to milated to the simple academies of other naapproach her.
During the first sitting that I had of her majesty, on
tions, which confer diplomas on all distinher return from Fontainebleau, I ventured guished strangers who visit the places in to remark to the queen how much the which they exist, and of which Madame Leerectness of her head heightened the dig- brun herself received a great many during nity of her look. She answered in a her travels. tone of pleasantry, 'If I were not a queen, This was, perhaps, the most brilliant part people would say that have an insolent of our autobiographer's life; at any rate at look-would they not ?!”
that portion which she passed in her own ed by others of the royal family, and one of of her husband 'in buying and selling picSeveral portraits of the queen were follow- country. The high price which was given
for her portraits, and the extensive business the former, in which were the dauphin and the Duc de Normandie, was afterward ex
tures, enabled her to throw her house
use her hibited at the Louvre. This picture was then open in the evening, and, to removed to Versailles, and placed in one of
own words, "the high nobility of either sex, the great rooms through which the queen science, art, or literature, foreigners of rank
those who had distinguished themselves in passed going to and from mass. After the death of the dauphin, her majesty could not where M. Lebrun placed his pictures, and
and celebrity, all frequented the saloon see it without weeping, and consequently ordered it to be placed elsewhere, not hower although large was so often crowded. that
where she held her soirées ; and this room, ver without informing Madame Lebrun of for want of seats
, the men would sit on the the reason for doing so. This probably floor; and so it happened that the Marshal saved it from the fury of the mob, in their de Noailles, who was fat and unwieldy, hamemorable visit to Versailles, where they ving adopted this plan, created much mirth even cut the queen's bed to pieces, and we believe that it is still preserved.
by the difficulty he found in getting up Madame Lebrun made a journey into he gained the great prize of the academy in Flanders with her husband, where she painted a well-known portrait of herself, in the she had always given, since her admission,
1788, he was present at the supper which manner of the “ Chapeau de Paille;" and this, and her other works, decided M. Joseph at this entertainment he met M. de Vau
to the students about to start for Rome, and Vernet to propose her as a member of the dreuil, one of the greatest ornaments of the Royal Academy. It was a very desirable thing for artists in those days to exhibit their court of Louis XVI., and most of the society
spoken by Madame Lebrun in her meworks in the great saloon of the Louvre, but in order to do so they must first have been Sacchini, and Martini performed parts of
moirs. The celebrated composers Gréty,
their new operas in her saloon before they dressing ourselves all à la Grecque, in orappeared on the stage; the first singers also, der to surprise M. de Vaudreuil and M. both public and private, joined Madame Le Boutin, who, I knew, would not arrive bebrun in executing the best music; Viotti fore ten o'clock. My painting-room, full
of everything requisite for draping my with his exquisite violin, Jarnovich, Maestri- models, would furnish abundance of garno, Prince Henry of Prussia, Hulmandel ments; and the Count de Barois, who and Cramer, were among the instrumental lodged in my house, rue de Clery, had a performers, and nothing could be more rc- superb collection of Etruscan vases. He cherche than these meetings. A select few came home that day at four o'clock prewere detained to supper, where the Abbé cisely. I communicated my scheme to de Lille, the Virgil of France, and Lebrun, him, and he brought me a quantity of gobthe Pindar, talked and recited their verses. tion. I cleaned all these articles myself,
lets and vases, from which I made a selecThe simplicity of the repast proved that it and placed them on a mahogany table, was not for the sake of eating and drinking laid without cloth. This done, I placed that the party had assembled ; poultry, fish, behind the chairs an immense skreen, one dish of cooked vegetables, and one of sa- which I took care to disguise by covering lad, formed the whole, and round these in- it with a drapery, in the same manner as significant viands was to be found the most we see in some of Poussin's pictures. A brilliant society in the world. These suppers table. At length every thing was prepa
suspended lamp threw a strong light on the have been continued, or perhaps we should red, as well as my costumes, when the rather say, revived, in France, under the name daughter of Joseph'Vernet, the charming of tea, which is generally served between ten Madame Chalgrin, was the first who arand eleven. With it, wine, cakes, pastry, sweet rived. I immediately dressed her, and armeats, and fruit, are set out; a few, chosen ranged her head-dress. Next came Mafrom the more numerous soirée, sit down dame de Bonneuil, so remarkable for her and form the most charming coterie round beauty ;. Madame Vigée, my sister-in-law, the table ; occasionally the selection is so finest eye in the world, and forth with all
who, without being so handsome, had the numerous as to require a double row of three were metamorphosed into genuine chairs, when the nearest hand the refresh- Athenians. Lebrun entered; his powder ments to those behind them ; servants are was taken out, his curls straitened, and I banished; conversation is animated, unre- placed upon his head a crown of laurels, served and gay; no one tries to outshine with which I had just painted young Prince
Henri Lubomirski. Count de Barois haphis neighbor; jealousies and rivalries to be dormant; and, when such men as or which served me for the drapery of my
pened to have an ample purple mantle, nament the fasti of science mingle without poet, whom I turned in the twinkling of an restraint in the passing scene, and only bring eye 'into a Pindar-an Anacreon. Then their genius to bear upon the enjoyment of came the Marquis de Cubières. While a the social hour, the recollection of such eve- messenger went to his house to fetch a nings must last for ever. The mind is re- guitar which he had had fitted up as a freshed by them; we feel better, wiser, more
gilded lyre, I dressed him, and also M. de charitable, after 'mingling with the noblest gené, and Chaudet the celebrated sculptor.
Rivière (my sister-in-law's brother), Guinof human kind ; and, while we find society | The hour approached; I had little time to a relaxation from the tasks of life, we have think of myself, but as I always wore a enjoyed it to our improvement. But we white dress in the form of a tunic, it was must return to Madame Lebrun, and de- sufficient for me put on a crown of Powers, scribe one of her suppers, which was very
and to throw a veil over celebrated, and afterwards hasten to another I bestowed my, particular care on my part of her life.
daughter, a charming girl, and Mademoiselle de Bonneuil, who was beauti
ful as an angel. Both were enchanting to “One evening, when I had invited behold, holding a very light antique twelve or fifteen persons to come and hear vase, and ready to serve us with drink. a recitation of the poet Lebrun's, my At half-past nine the preparations were brother read to me a few pages of the finished, and when we had all taken our Travels of Anacharsis. When he came seats, the effect of that table was so novel, to the passage where, in describing a
so picturesque, that each of us rose in turn Greek dinner, the author explains the man- to take a look at those who remained seatner of making several sauces, 'You ought,' ed. At ten o'clock we heard the carriage said he, 'to let us taste some of these this enter with Count de Vaudreuil and M. evening. I immediately called upon my Boutin; and when those gentlemen came cook, gave her very precise instructions, to the entrance of the dining-room, the and we agreed that she should make a folding-doors of which I had directed to certain sauce for the fowls, and another be set open, they found us singing Glück's for the eels. As I expected some very chorus, Le Dieu de Paphos et de Gnide, handsome women, I conceived the idea of which M. de Cubières accompanied with