Analysis Of Vigée Lebrun's Self-Portrait With Her Daughter

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The image of the beautiful and caring mother has been celebrated since the Madonna and Child. Being seen as the pinnacle of feminine virtue, it has been used as a way to portray women in a positive and moral light. The self-portrait often shows the attributes of the painter that they wish to be seen. The self-portrait painter presents themselves to the audience. When a mother paints a self-portrait with her daughter she establishes and defines herself by her daughter. The painting “Self-Portrait with Her Daughter, Julie” by Élisabeth Vigée Lebrun shows the artist’s daughter as an extension of herself not only meant to exalt her love for her child but also to show herself in a flattering light as the devoted and beautiful mother.
“Self Portrait
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She feared for her life as well as the lavish lifestyle she had become accustomed to. This time she was not trying to save the queen’s image but instead present herself to us in a similar way. She presents herself both as a sympathetic figure and someone to look up to. Lebrun highlights her own delicate and graceful features, as well as her daughter’s beauty. “A youthful and lovely Vigée Le Brun, wearing a loose-fitting white garment that enticingly reveals her right shoulder and arm, and adorned with a reddish shawl, enfolds in her arms little Julie. Vigée Le Brun’s self-portraits with her daughter extol the joy of motherhood, but not without a subtle narcissistic touch consisting of emphasizing her own good looks.”(61) In the self-portrait Vigée Lebrun compares herself and her daughter to the Madonna and Child. The Madonna is the ultimate figure of feminine virtue and motherhood. By placing herself and Julie in the center of the composition and through use of neoclassical robes the viewer is forced to make the connection. She presents her relationship with her daughter as idyllic. Her daughter tenderly embraces her mother, we are able to see her dependency but also her love. This is how Lebrun wants to be seen, as an honorable mother. All the details of this painting, from it’s composition to the reference it makes to the Madonna and Child, put Lebrun in a flattering scene during a…show more content…
By presenting her daughter in the portrait, Vigée Lebrun presents Julie as an extension of herself. She does not see her daughter as a separate entity, a different person with different needs, but as an appendage to herself. She uses Julie to define herself as a mother figure. Julie becomes integral to her identity. Throughout her daughter’s life, and at the time of the portrait’s painting, Vigée Lebrun takes control of her daughter’s actions to show her as an extension of herself. “By the time Vigée Le Brun came upon the artistic scene, antiquity had become a Paris fashion, and the neoclassical style was eagerly endorsed by such painters as Vien, David’s teacher…As for Le Brun, since she always wore white muslin dresses, all she needed to do was add a veil and place a wreath of flowers on her head. She took special pleasure in decking out her daughter, Julie, in similar fashion.”53. From the time she dresses her she raises her daughter to be very much the same person as her. A plan that can only end in disappointment. Clinging to her Lebrun, Julie in this portrait is very much connected to her mother. At age nine she needs her mother as much as her mother needs her, but as she grows their relationship strains. Julie becomes very much like Vigée Lebrun, she is an adept painter and a
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