Friday, October 19, 2012

The Artist Anne

Alexander Roslin "The Artist Anne Vallayer-Coster" 1783 private collection

There is no absolute consensus on whether this piece was executed by Swedish portraitist Alexander Roslin (1718-1793)  or if it is a self-portrait from the brush of French painter Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818) but there is no dispute that Madame Vallayer-Coster is the subject of the piece.

Madame Vallayer-Coster was unusual for many reasons. She was one of only four women accepted into the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture prior to the french revolution, and this great honor she achieved at the young age of twenty-six.  She was known primarily for her still-life painting, a genre that was not held in high esteem in the aesthetic circles of the time. However, art critic and philosopher Denis Diderot spoke warmly of her work in the salon of 1771 commenting,"if all new members of the Royal Academy made a showing like Mademoiselle Vallayer's, and sustained the same high level of quality, the Salon would look very different!"

Alexander Roslin was born in Sweden, and moved around northern Europe painting statesmen and royalty. He settled in Paris in 1750 where he continued to practice his trade. Although most of his work was focused on capturing likenesses of the powerful and wealthy of his time, possibly his most well-known work is a playful and charming painting of his wife:

Aexander Roslin "Lady with a Veil (the Artist's Wife)" 1768 Nationalmuseum
In fact, this lovely lady, Roslin's wife, was a highly regarded artist herselfMarie-Suzanne-Thérèse Giroust (1734–1772), also known simply as Madame Roslin, studied with artists Joseph-Marie Vien and Maurice Quentin de La Tour.  She fell in love with Roslin after meeting him in Vien's studio and despite oppostion from her guardians (due to Roslin's being Protestant rather than Catholic) the couple married in 1759. They had six children. Madame Roslin died lamentably young, age 38, of breast cancer. Despite the limited size of her artistic output she is thought to have been one of the great pastel talents of the era.

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