The portrait of María Cristina Teresa de Borbón, (1790), painted by Louise-Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and restored in the Prado Museum.MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO
The Prado Museum's restoration workshop has cleaned two portraits by the French painter Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun (1755-1842), which until now had been in the warehouses.
With this cleaning, the institution has recovered the aspect that is more faithful and close to the author's idea, as EL PAÍS has learned, to upload these canvases from the basements to the exhibition rooms.
The museum's management has decided to link the rescue of an essential artist in the evolution of the history of painting from the 18th to the 19th centuries, to the
, which will open on October 6 and which will analyze the role of women in Spanish art of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th.
The portraits of Vigèe Le Brun restored are
Carolina, Queen of Naples
, an oil on panel from 1790, and
María Cristina Teresa de Borbón
, the same support and from the same year.
In both, the special sensitivity that this artist had for daily narration and intimacy is discovered, and for the psychological portrait of her characters, which gain in spontaneity and frankness.
They are women (only one sixth of their portraits were men) who celebrate life, wrapped in gentle pastel tones.
Marie Antoinette's Favorite Painter
The great lady of portraits
With this movement, the museum exhibits the sixth female artist in its rooms.
Vigée-Le Brun thus joins the names of Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rosa Bonheur, Clara Peeters and Angelica Kauffmann.
Between them there are 13 paintings of the more than 1,700 that were shown before the reduction of exhibition space caused by the health crisis.
“We have already restored them and now we are analyzing and studying them to confirm the attribution.
Until now the cataloging has been by tradition, now we want to make sure.
She was a very popular painter who had many copies.
But now that they're clean, without those hideous yellow varnishes, the quality shows.
Once we have completed the investigation, in a few weeks, they will go to room 75, dedicated to neoclassicism, ”explains Andrés Úbeda, Deputy Director of Conservation and Research at the museum.
In fact, of the portrait of María Cristina Teresa de Borbón, future queen consort of Sardinia, whom the artist represented sitting in a garden collecting roses, there is another identical version in the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples, where a portrait of the Vigée-Le Brun's brother and two of his sister.
The first news that the Prado has of both tables are from the inventory of 1854-1858 and since then they have been recognized as "Madama Le Brun".
The two works in the Prado will possibly dialogue with the portraits of Mariano Salvador Maella, Ramón Bayeu or Agustín Esteve.
But they are still redesigning the return that will come after Reencuentro, the exhibition that exists now, when the usual spaces are recovered.
Úbeda indicates that they are rethinking the collection, that there is work to recover works pending review and analysis.
"The Prado has a very good bench," he says.
And on that bench there are women.
"We started with the Clara Peeters exhibition, in 2016, and since then we have tried to maintain that line," says the deputy director, who confirms that no work by women artists appears in the last year's purchases.
The year of the international resurrection of Vigée-Le Brun -artsita who always kept her surname, despite adopting by law that of her husband, the dealer Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Brun- was 2015, when the first retrospective on her work was presented , at the Grand Palais in Paris, the MET in New York and at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa.
The Louvre Museum in Paris, the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan in New York or the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg exhibit works by the French painter who has been recognized as the capital of France that jumps from Rococo to Neoclassical.
In the London museum, for example, it hangs in a prestigious room together with works by François Boucher, Jean-Siméon Chardin, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jean-Baptiste Greuze or André Boys.
Painter on the run
Despite this rescue, the Prado kept away from public view the work of those who have been designated and stigmatized as the painter of Queen Marie Antoinette.
In the biography kept by the Spanish museum, it is said of her that “she was one of the most valued female artists of her time, and one of the most reviled, especially for being the author of some of the greatest pictorial works of political propaganda of the century. XVIII at the service of an idealized Marie Antoinette ”.
She never held the title of painter to the queen, but since she was 22 years old she has portrayed her so much that the doors of success and exile were opened to her.
"If I was at the window of my house, the rude
threatened me with their fists," he wrote in the extensive memoirs he wrote at the end of his life.
Those days, prior to the French Revolution, he remembered with "anguish and pain."
He fled with his daughter to Lyon and from there made a successful European tour of the courts of Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Berlin, and Saint Petersburg.
He never kept a good image of the revolution: "Women reigned then, the revolution buried them," he wrote in one of his most stony sentences.
The life of Vigée-Le Brun is a tale of overcoming, resistance and recognition.
Linda Nochlin was the first historian to rescue, in 1976, the artist who had to learn to draw the human figure using her brothers and her mother, sometimes naked, as models, because the lessons were forbidden to women.
In 1783 she was admitted to the Academy of Painting and Sculpture thanks to the royal intervention, and she avoided the guillotine a few years later.
She wrote that she never lost her "innate passion": "The obligation to put the brushes down for a few hours increased my love of work."