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Title: Vigée Le Brun
Author: MacFall, Haldane, 1860-1928
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Cover art]



  MASTERPIECES
  IN COLOUR
  EDITED BY --
  T. LEMAN HARE



VIGÉE LE BRUN

1755-1842



=====================================================================

PLATE I.--MARIE ANTOINETTE.  Frontispiece

(At Versailles)

The first portrait that Vigée Le Brun painted, in her twenty-fourth
year (1779) of Marie Antoinette.  Here is no hint of the tragedy that
was to overwhelm the handsome young daughter of Austria; all was as yet
but gaiety and roses and sunshine and pleasant airs, and the glamour
that hovers about a throne.  But there are signs of the imperious
temper of her house, combined with the levity and frivolity of manners
which were so early to make her unpopular.

[Illustration: Plate I.]

=====================================================================



Vigée Le Brun


BY HALDANE MACFALL



ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT

REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR



[Illustration: Title page art]



LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK

NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO.

1907



CONTENTS


   I. The Beginnings
  II. The Wonderful Child
 III. Marriage and Motherhood
  IV. Marie Antoinette
   V. Sweet Exile
  VI. The End



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Plate

    I. Marie Antoinette  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Frontispiece
         At Versailles

   II. Madame Vigée Le Brun and Child
         In the Louvre

  III. Madame Vigée Le Brun and Child
         In the Louvre

   IV. Portrait of Madame Vigée Le Brun
         In the National Gallery, London

    V. The two elder Children of Marie Antoinette
         At Versailles

   VI. Portrait of Madame Molé-Raymond
         In the Louvre

  VII. Marie Antoinette and her Children
         At Versailles

 VIII. Peace bringing back Plenty
         In the Louvre



[Illustration: Vigée Le Brun]

I

THE BEGINNINGS

In Paris, in the Rue Coquillière, Louis the Fifteenth being King of
France--or rather the Pompadour holding sway thereover--there lived a
witty, amiable fellow who plied the art of painting portraits in oils
and pastels after the mediocre fashion that is called "pleasing." This
Louis Vigée and his wife, Jeanne Maissin, moved in the genial
enthusiastic circle of the lesser artists, passing through their sober
day without undue excitement; for fame and wealth and the prizes of
life were not for them.  Boucher was lord of art; and La Tour and
Greuze and Chardin were at the height of their genius; but honest Louis
Vigée could but plod on at his pleasing portraits, and sigh that the
gods had not borne to him the immortal flame.

Yet he was to come near to the glory of it--nearer than he thought.
'Twas a pity that he was robbed of the splendour of basking in the
reflected radiance, and by a fish's bone.

It was to have its beginning in that year after the indolent but
obstinate king, having fallen foul of his Parliaments in his game of
facing-both-ways in the bitter strife 'twixt Church and people, patched
up a peace with the Parliament men.

=====================================================================

PLATE II.--MADAME VIGÉE LE BRUN AND CHILD

(In the Louvre)

In Vigée Le Brun's portrait of herself and her child we see in full
career the Greek ideals that were come upon France--a France weary of
light trifling with life, and of mere butterfly flitting from flower to
flower.

[Illustration: Plate II.]

=====================================================================

Our worthy mediocre Vigée could remember the banished Parliament
re-entering Paris in triumph on that fourth day of September in 1754
amidst the exultant shouts of the people; the clergy looking on with a
scowl the while.  On that same day was born to the Dauphin a son--the
little fellow called the Duke de Berry--whom we shall soon see
ascending the throne as the ill-starred Louis the Sixteenth, for the
Dauphin was to be taken before the old king died.

Honest waggish Vigée, painting industriously at his pleasing portraits,
would recall it well; since, early in the following year, there was
that to happen under his own modest roof which was to bring fame to his
name, though he should not live to bask in its full glow.

On the 10th of April 1755 there was born to him a little girl-child,
whom they christened Elizabeth Louise Vigée, or as she herself wrote it
across the title-page of her _Souvenirs_, Louise Elizabeth Vigée.  Into
her little fingers Destiny set the skill that had been denied to her
father; the flame was given to her.  And by the whimsy of things, there
was also born in far-away Vienna, in this same year of 1755, in the
palace of the Emperors of Austria, a little princess whom they
christened Marie Antoinette; who was to marry the little seven-month
old princeling that lay sucking his thumb in the Royal palace near by,
and thereby to become future Queen of France.

Like François Boucher, the great painter to the king, Elizabeth Vigée
came to the pretty business with the advantage of being an artist's
child; like him, she received her first lessons at an early age from
her father; and, like him, she moved from earliest childhood in an
atmosphere of art and artists.

From her father she inherited a talent and taste for art, an amiable
temper, a gift of wit; from her mother, a very handsome woman, she was
dowered with a beauty for which she was as remarkable, and to which her
many portraits of herself bear abundant witness.  From very childhood
she began to display the proofs of her inheritance--that happy
disposition and that charm of manner that were to make her one of the
most winsome personalities of her time.  At the convent to which her
parents sent her in her tenth year she fell to drawing on the margins
of her books, filling them with little portrait-heads--an incessant
habit that set her teachers grumbling at her lack of respect towards
grammar and history.  But to her delighted father the grumbles were
matter for laughter; in him she found an ally who was hugely proud to
discover in his girl an inheritor of his gifts.  It is told of the fond
father that the girl having taken to him one day a drawing, Vigée cried
out exultantly: "You will be a painter, my girl, or there never was
one!"

Brought up, as the child was, in the world of artists, with the aims
and ambitions and enthusiasms of artists for her very breath, she could
not fail to find in such a world, besides the encouragement which was
prodigally bestowed upon so young and promising a talent, the teaching
needful to develop her powers.  Amongst the artists who were on
friendly terms with the girl's father, and of whom Doyen was the most
intimate, was Davesne, a member and deputy professor of the Academy of
St. Luke--he who afterwards claimed to have taught the little Elizabeth
the elements of painting.  Davesne's lessons were at best but few, and
seem to have been limited to showing the eager child how to set a
palette.  The girl was in fact picking up the crumbs that fell from
many tables; at any rate she showed astoundingly precocious industry
and gifts, and was soon making quite a stir amongst the painter-folk,
and becoming a source of pride to her father.

Vigée, however, was only destined to guide and encourage the child
towards the path; he died on the 9th of May 1768 from swallowing a fish
bone.  Little Elizabeth was but thirteen years old when this first
great grief fell upon her.

That was a strange world in which the child stood bewildered at the
baffling cruelty of human destiny--this eighteenth-century France.  The
Pompadour had died in the child's ninth year; her dogged and persistent
enemy, the Dauphin, the year after her; the neglected queen now
followed the Pompadour to the grave in the June of this same year that
left little Elizabeth fatherless.

Under the scandals of the Court, and the tyranny and corruption of the
nobility and clergy, the French people were no longer concealing their
distress under courtly phrases, nor groaning in secret.  The ideas of
the new philosophers were penetrating and colouring public opinion.
They were beginning to talk of the great antique days of Greece, of
heroes, and of virtue, and of living and dying like Romans.  Fickle
fashion was turning her back upon the art of old Boucher, and upon
Dresden shepherds and shepherdesses and pleasant landscapes and bosky
groves, and was taking up her abode with heroes and amongst picturesque
ruins.  The Parliament men were demanding rights, were indeed going to
prison and into banishment for those rights; nay, was not Choiseul the
great minister of France; and Choiseul's power was deep planted in the
rights of the people and founded on Parliaments.  All France was
watching for the dawn of liberty.



II

THE WONDERFUL CHILD

The thirteen-year-old child suffered a grief so poignant at the loss of
her father, to whom she had been passionately attached, that it
threatened to have the gravest consequences on her future; had it not
been for her father's old friend Doyen, who, transferring to the girl
the deep affection he had had for the dead man, urged the child to take
up her brushes again--for she was already painting from Nature.

It was now that she entered the studio of Gabriel Briard, an historical
painter and member of the Royal Academy; a mediocre artist (though
superior to Davesne, who claimed to have been her teacher), but he was
a fine draughtsman.

To Briard's studio she went with a little friend, a year older than
herself, Mademoiselle Bocquet, who was to become like herself a member
of the Academy of Saint Luke; a girl of a certain talent who, however,
abandoned painting on her early marriage.

The two girls tripped it to Briard's studio like a couple of
school-children, demurely escorted by a servant, who carried their
dinner in a basket; and, as they went to their daily task, be sure the
quick intelligent girl heard more than a little scandal of the
Court--indeed all Paris more than whispered of it--scandal big with
meaning for France, and for little Elizabeth not least of all.

The tears of the king's grief over the dead body of his queen were
scarce dried when Louis the Fifteenth still further degraded the
dignity of the throne of France--still more dangerously brought royalty
into contempt by publicly acknowledging as his new mistress a young
woman from the gutters, the beautiful, laughing, reckless spendthrift
Du Barry, to whom one of the king's first gifts was Louveciennes, where
Elizabeth was afterwards to meet her.  Before the year was out Choiseul
fell; and for the remaining four years that were left to the king
France was governed by the milliner Du Barry and her precious trio,
D'Aiguillon, Terray, and Maupeou; and rushed towards the abyss.

However, these things troubled our precocious Elizabeth but little as
yet.  The girl grew rapidly in craftsmanship and in personal beauty.
Indeed, she developed towards womanhood as early and as swiftly as in
skill of artistry, being remarkable for her prettiness, her freshness
and delicacy of colouring, and her elegance of figure--early displaying
the airy wit that, with these abundant gifts of her fairy godmother,
were so valuable an aid to the reputation which she was achieving by
her artistry at a time when most children are in the schoolroom.

Her advance was so astounding that every one was talking about the
girl; and the moment soon arrived when her master saw the pupil passing
him in skill of hand and reputation as a painter; gazing dumbfounded at
the stream of the greatest celebrities and personages of the day
flocking to the studio of a girl of but fifteen years of age.

How strange a thing the weaving of the web of Destiny!  In this very
same year there came out of Austria a fifteen-year-old princess of its
Royal House, leaving the home of her forefathers in tears, and amidst
the tears of a people that had grown to love the winsome child; for,
Marie Antoinette was setting forth on her life's adventure as future
Queen of France, a tragic wayfaring for a butterfly!

Elizabeth Vigée's extraordinary rise into notice brought her the
friendship and counsel of Joseph Vernet, who gave her most precious
advice which was a beacon to her career all her years: "My child," said
he, "do not follow any system of schools.  Consult only the works of
the great Italian and Flemish masters.  But, above all things, make as
many studies as you can from Nature.  Nature is the supreme master.  If
you study Nature with care it will prevent you from picking up any
mannerisms."

=====================================================================

PLATE III.--MADAME VIGÉE LE BRUN AND CHILD

(In the Louvre)

Vigée Le Brun painted another portrait of herself and her little
girl-child; and she painted both, fortunately for her fame, when her
skill was at its increase.  They stand out, with all their limitations,
pure and exquisite as the Madonna and Child of Italy's finest
achievement; for they were painted by a woman of genius with the
passionate love of a child that is the wondrous heritage of woman--none
the less religious in that it apes no show of religion.

[Illustration: Plate III.]

=====================================================================

Doyen and Greuze also helped her with suggestions; but she was from the
beginning her own teacher.  Davesne and Briard only flattered
themselves by claiming her tutoring.  The girl showed in no way any
slightest sign of their influence.  Ardent and enthusiastic in her
pursuit of art, she haunted the galleries and private collections, but
above all she went to Nature.  Naturalness is by consequence a marked
attribute of one who painted in this artificial age--in portraiture she
largely escaped the conventional style, both its limitations and, be it
also confessed, something of that great beauty of style and that superb
decorative splendour that mark the handsome achievement of Nattier and
Drouais and their fellows.  Nor must it be forgotten that the realism
claimed by the later years, and the naturalism claimed for this girl's
art, were already to be seen in full career in the master-work of La
Tour in portraiture, and in the still-life of Chardin.  This girl's
genius never reached to the force of La Tour, nor the superb handling
or colour-sense or vigour of Chardin, but she painted with rare skill
the eminent women of her day and, with near as remarkable a skill, more
than one man; her loss would have left a serious gap in the statement
of the French genius of the end of the seventeen hundreds.

It has been a custom too long indulged in by literary critics to praise
her at the expense of Boucher's "conventionality"; but she never
painted a portrait that surpassed the Wallace "Pompadour" or the
"Infant Orleans," to say nothing of other rare portraits from Boucher's
easel.  To set her up in rivalry against one of the greatest decorative
artists of the years is but to give her an ugly fall.  The astounding
part is not that she painted better than she did, but that she achieved
what she did.

But free from convention?  No.  She was a woman, and a painter of
women--a painter of women from the woman's point of view that desires
the world only to think of woman in her pose as woman, reticent,
careful to screen the impulsive, most of all the vexatious, the
violent, and the irregular moods of femininity's temperament from the
eyes of the passer-by; always eager to show woman dressed for the part,
and well dressed.  She was incapable of stating the deeps of character;
and had she had the power, she would have looked upon it as something
of an indecency--or worse, an indelicacy.  She would, in fact, have
preferred to deny the deeps.  She sets her sitter ever in the
drawing-room of fashion, draws a heavy curtain with a rattle between
the drawing-room and the inner boudoir (the "sulking room"), slams the
door on the bedroom, or any hint that there is a bedroom, before she
cries "come in," to admit us to her studio; she prefers to show the
woman in her properties as the creature of fashion, not in the intimacy
of her inner living and full significance.

This is as much and as absolutely convention as any tricking out of
ladies as Dresden shepherdesses, and the more subtle in that it is the
less obvious; as much convention as any painting of large eyes or
rose-bud mouths.  It is as misleading as convention.  But it is the
basis of a woman's life; and, in that, it is true.

Boucher has been blamed for being conventional; is often sneered at as
the arch-make-believe.  But when he painted women he painted them as
men really see them with their masks off, and with all their allure of
femininity.  This sneer of convention is a two-edged sword.

In the year that they found Boucher dead, seated at his easel before an
unfinished canvas of Venus, this girl of fifteen discovered herself
celebrated; saw her studio invaded by the flower of the world of
fashion; the women of the nobility at the French Court visiting her;
the exclusive doors of the Faubourg St. Germain thrown open to her;
princesses, duchesses, countesses, celebrities of the day and strangers
of distinction her friends.  She was in close touch with the leading
artists of her day--Le Moyne, blunt Quentin de La Tour, and the rest.

The girl, in spite of her astounding industry, was soon wholly unable
to carry out the orders for portraits which rained in upon her; her
charm of manner and her increasing beauty added to the pressure of the
siege of her admirers.

A little while before her fifteenth birthday her mother married again a
young jeweller, of the name of Le Sèvre, a miserly fellow, who, under
the pretext of taking them into the country, hired a little house at
Chaillot, where they went with the girl for their Sundays; the thrifty
stepfather planting its garden with the gay blossoms of the useful
haricot-bean and the nasturtium.  He had a frugal mind.

The petty tyrannies of the thrifty jeweller, his mean outlook on life,
and his sordid aims, made of the habits and atmosphere of his class an
even more uncongenial world for this brilliant girl to live in.
Happily the pursuit of her art, and the friendship of that circle into
which that art and her gifts and charming personality raised her,
mitigated the tyranny of this sordid relationship.  And, to add to her
relief, Madame Suzanne, wife of the sculptor, and a friend of her
mother, would carry off the girl with her into the country; and it was
during one of their walks at Marly that she met for the first time
Marie Antoinette.

On the 10th of May 1774, a month before Elizabeth Vigée's nineteenth
birthday, King Louis the Fifteenth died of the small-pox--died without
a friend, for he had dismissed the Du Barry in tears a short while
before.  His body was hastily thrust into a coffin, and hurried at the
trot through the darkness to St. Denis, for fear of attack from the
sullen crowds that gathered to do it dishonour; so was he huddled away
amongst the bones of the ancient kings of his race, unattended by the
Court, and amidst the curses of his people.

Louis the Sixteenth, son of Louis Fifteenth's only son, the dead
Dauphin, ascended the throne of France in his twentieth year, a
pure-minded, honourable young fellow, full of good intentions, and
sincerely anxious for the well-being of his people; but of a diffident
temper, timid, hesitating, and uncertain in decision, and under the
influence of his young consort, the beautiful Queen Marie Antoinette,
who had the imperious temper of her house, wedded to light and
frivolous manners; she brought to her counsels a deplorable lack of
judgment and a steadfast incompetence in knowledge of men.

The good qualities of this young pair had been very well in private
life; but France needed greater abilities for her guidance than the
simple virtues.  It was a hideous part of the destiny of this young
couple that they came to rule over a France that was passionately
angered at the misdeeds of a king and his privileged class of nobles
and clergy who had gone before them--of a class that had come unscathed
through that reign, and were grown incapable of realising that they
could not come unscathed through another.

The Du Barry flown, and her precious trio of ministers with her, Louis
recalled the crafty old schemer Maurepas to power from the banishment
into which the Pompadour had sent him; but he otherwise began well by
making Turgot his minister of finance.

On the 25th of October in this 1774 that saw Louis Quinze and Marie
Antoinette come to the throne of France, Elizabeth Vigée was elected to
the Academy of St. Luke at nineteen years of age.

She brought to her early successes a charming modesty and an utter
absence of conceit or of pose that added greatly to her reputation, and
paved the way to further honours.



III

MARRIAGE AND MOTHERHOOD

But early success was not to be without black care stepping into the
triumphal car in her procession towards an early and wide fame of this
charming and accomplished young woman of twenty.  Honours were easy.
But the devil was in the machinery.

Her family had lived in the Rue de Cléry, opposite the hotel Lubert;
thence they had drifted to the Rue St. Honoré hard by the Palais Royal;
they now returned to the Rue de Cléry to the hotel Lubert itself.  Here
it chanced that Le Brun, the expert, carried on a lucrative traffic in
pictures.  His gallery attracted the pretty artist, who could study
there at leisure the works of the great masters that passed through.

The two families soon became intimate.  Le Brun carefully weighing the
great advantages that such a union could bring to him, but entangled by
his engagement to marry the daughter of a Dutch dealer in pictures who
lived opposite to him, and with whom he had considerable business in
works of art, beat about as to how he could marry Elizabeth Vigée.  The
girl was living in the splendour of a circle to which her family could
not hope to aspire; the picture-dealer belonged to the middle-class in
which her own family moved.  Any day she might marry out of that
middle-class world into the world of fashion.  He saw that the girl
moved in, and was happiest in, a great world to which he had not the
key.  He had the ambition to belong to that world, though his
common-sense might have told him that he never could do more than hang
about its outer courts.  He was a calculating blackguard, a man of
loose life, and a vulgar fellow with vulgar ambitions.  He saw astutely
enough that this girl was well on the high-road to considerable
fortune.  The Dutch girl opposite necessitated wary walking.  He played
the romantic lover, and before six months were run out he was pressing
his suit, asking Elizabeth Vigée to marry him secretly.

=====================================================================

PLATE IV.--PORTRAIT OF MADAME VIGÉE LE BRUN

(In the National Gallery, London)

She saw at Anvers the famous "Chapeau de paille" by Rubens.  This
canvas by Rubens clearly inspired her to the painting of the portrait
of herself in a straw hat, where she stands bathed in the sunlight, her
palette in her hand.  The painting of the flesh of the pretty face is
exquisite, and in spite of intense finish is broadly conceived and rich
and glowing in colour.  The clumsy drawing of the hand that holds the
palette is the only defect in this, one of her masterpieces.  The
picture has the added interest of revealing to us how Vigée Le Brun set
her palette.  The thing is thrilling with life; and the little feminine
conceit of wearing her black wrap is quaintly delightful.

[Illustration: Plate IV.]

=====================================================================

The girl seems to have had a presentiment of the misery that such a
marriage would mean for her.  After long and serious hesitation she
gave her consent.  It was perhaps due to a sense of being between the
devil and the deep sea, for her sordid and miserly stepfather the
jeweller must have been a sorry table-companion of her home life.  If
she suspected the picture-dealer to be a rogue, she thought, likely
enough, that the more genial rogue would be a pleasanter fellow to live
with than the other.

She married him secretly on the 11th of January 1776, on the edge of
her twenty-first year.  It was not a wholly promising beginning, this
that gave her the name that she was to immortalise--Vigée Le Brun.

It was a sorry match.  It began in secrecy; she was to discover that it
was founded on a treachery.  When the marriage was discovered it was
too late to dissuade the girl from it; she had to listen to some plain
home-truths as a Dutchman saw them, and to grim prophecies of the evil
that would come of the business.  But he might have spared his breath.

She was to have her ugly awakening.  She early discovered that Le Brun
was a gambler, a rake, and a thoroughly dissolute and unscrupulous
rogue.  It was not long before he had not only squandered his own
fortune, but was playing ducks and drakes with every penny that she
gained by her art and her untiring industry.

She was soon to become a mother; the love that she had sedately allowed
to go out to her disreputable and pretentious husband, and which she
had early withdrawn in tatters, she now lavished upon this, her
girl-child.

Meanwhile, her reputation increased by leaps and bounds.  Her studio
was simply besieged by "the Quality."  The Duchess of Orleans had to
wait her turn a whole year before she could be painted.  Vigée Le
Brun's praise was in every mouth.  She was sung in prose and verse; the
poetasters ran to much doggerel of handsome intent, as was the fashion
of the day.  Marquises and the rest of the scribbling folk tripped over
halting feet to sing her charms and immortalise her art.  "L'orgueil de
France" rhymed it to "la double puissance;" and "immortal crayon" to
"admiration."  They spilled the rosy inks.  Le Brun, not the
picture-dealing husband, but the poetical fellow who modestly nicknamed
himself the Pindar of his age, plucked at the lyre with both hands in
her honour.

Nay, have we not the written record that Laharpe, uttering his rhymed
discourse on the genius of women to a great gathering of the bloods and
wits at the Academy, and bursting into violent poesies in announcing
that Elizabeth, "the modern Rosalba, but more brilliant than she, weds
the voice of Favart with the smiles of a Venus"--every one rose to
their feet, "not omitting the Duchess of Chartres and the King of
Sweden," and turning to the blushing Elizabeth, applauded her "with
transports"!

So much for France within the walls of the Royal Academy.  But France
without!  The great minister, Turgot, baffled by the selfishness of the
privileged classes, fell.  But Louis called to power near as good a
man, worthy banker Neckar.  In an unfortunate hour for the Royal house,
and against the will of the king, be it credited, and to the
bewilderment of Neckar, the nation having gone mad with enthusiasm over
the prospect of an alliance with Britain's revolted American colonies,
war was declared against England, France undertaking not to conclude
peace until the colonies were free.  The success of the revolted
colonies made the Revolution in France a certainty.  The fall of Neckar
and the setting up of the reckless and incompetent Calonne over the
destinies of France brought the shout of the Democracy to the gardens
of the king.  Vigée Le Brun's picture of the dandified man certainly
does not show him a leader of great enterprises.  His reckless
extravagance satisfied the nobles; it brought bankruptcy stalking to
the doors of the king's palace.  The distress and sufferings of the
people became unbearable.  The miserable scandal of the diamond
necklace added to the discredit of the queen.  The Royal family and the
Court sank further in the people's respect.

As for Vigée Le Brun, she was come into her kingdom.  And it is during
those twenty years, from shortly after her marriage until she was
forty, that her best and most brilliant portraiture belongs, before the
hardness and dryness of her later style showed signs of the decay of
her powers.

=====================================================================

PLATE V.--THE TWO ELDER CHILDREN OF MARIE ANTOINETTE--THE FIRST DAUPHIN
(born 1781, died 1789) AND THE MADAME ROYALE

(At Versailles)

The little Dauphin of four years, and his seven-year-old sister, the
Madame Royale, seated on a bank, the boy's hat thrown at his feet upon
the flower-strewn ground--a work in which Vigée Le Brun's colour-sense,
her fine arrangement, and her feeling for style reach to their highest
flight.  The handsome boy was mercifully taken at the dawn of the
Revolution; the girl was to know all its terrors.

[Illustration: Plate V.]

=====================================================================

To its earliest, freshest years belongs the first portrait that Vigée
Le Brun painted, in her twenty-fourth year (1779) of Marie Antoinette,
in which the young queen is seen with a large basket, and dressed in a
satin gown, holding a rose in her hand--painted the year after the
birth of her eldest child, the Madame Royale.  Here is no hint of the
tragedy that was to overwhelm the handsome young daughter of Austria;
all was as yet but gaiety and roses and sunshine and pleasant airs and
the glamour that hovers about a throne.  But there are signs of the
imperious temper of her house, combined with the levity and frivolity
of manners, which were so early to make her unpopular.

Vigée Le Brun was to paint her royal mistress close on thirty times
during the next ten years, until the prison doors shut upon the Royal
house of France; and there grew up between the two women a subtle and
charming friendship that was to make the talented woman a dogged and
convinced royalist to her dying day--indeed, the temperament of women
needs small incense towards the worshipping of idols.

Vigée Le Brun was rarely more happy in her art than in several of the
many portraits she painted of herself about this time--more
particularly the two famous pictures of herself with her little
daughter.  "The Marie Antoinette with the Rose" is redolent still of
the eighteenth-century France--the siècle Louis Quinze.  In Vigée Le
Brun's portrait of herself and her child we see in full career the
Greek ideals that were come upon France--a France weary of light
trifling with life, and of mere butterfly flitting from flower to
flower; here is that crying back to the antique spirit that was
leavening the middle-class of France which was about to claim dominion
over the land and to step to the foot of the throne and usurp the
sceptre and diadem of her ancient line of kings as the Third Estate;
and to come to power with violent upheaval, wading to the throne
through blood and terror.  Here we see Vigée Le Brun, royalist,
glorifying motherhood, her arms and shoulders bare in chaste nudity,
her body scantily attired in the simple purity of Greek robes, her
child in her embrace.

Vigée Le Brun painted another portrait of herself and her little
girl-child; and she painted both, fortunately for her fame, when her
skill was at its increase.  They stand out, with all their limitations,
pure and exquisite as the Madonna and Child of Italy's finest
achievement; for they were painted by a woman of genius with the
passionate love of a child that is the wondrous heritage of woman; none
the less religious in that it apes no show of religion.  We see the age
of free thought stating the innate religion of free thought; as
Renaissance Italy painted paganism in religious disguise with the
innate irreligion of its day.

In all her portraiture one is struck by the fact that Vigée Le Brun
took much pains to arrange the draperies in what she considered
picturesque fashion rather than that she painted the ordinary gowns of
her day as her sitters wore them on entering her studio.  And we have
her own word for it in her _Souvenirs_ (wherein the careful record of
each picture that she painted may be found) that the dress of most
women of the time seemed ugly to her--as it does to so many artists,
generally not the best, in all times--indeed, she used every ounce of
tact that she possessed in order to "arrange" the draperies.  She
sternly set her face against the use of powder and paint that the
fashion of her century put upon complexions even of the most delicate
beauties; and she always, when she could, arranged the hair of the
women sitters.  She tells, not without pride, how, having persuaded the
beautiful Duchess of Grammont-Caderousse to put off paint and powder,
and to allow her to arrange her jet-black hair, drawing it down over
the forehead and separating it over the brow and arranging it in
irregular little curls, the duchess went to the theatre as she was, and
created the fashion thereby, in spite of the fact that Vigée Le Brun
could never persuade the queen to give in to her, Marie Antoinette
replying to all her beguilings: "I shall be the last to follow the
fashion; I do not wish them to say that I am trying to hide my huge
forehead."

Marie Antoinette was beginning to realise that all France did not fawn
upon her with the courtier's bended shoulder or pretty speech.



IV

MARIE ANTOINETTE

In her twenty-seventh year (1782) Vigée Le Brun made a journey into
Flanders with her husband, who had gone thither picture-dealing.  The
works of the Flemish masters that she there saw had a marked effect
upon the increase of her art.

She saw at Anvers the famous "Chapeau de paille" by Rubens; and had
revealed to her the beauties of a sun-flooded figure, with the face
painted in the golden glow of reflected lights under the shadow flung
down over it by a large hat.  This canvas by Rubens clearly inspired
her to the painting of the portrait of herself in a straw hat, where
she stands bathed in the sunlight, her palette in her hand.  The
painting of the flesh of the pretty face is exquisite, and in spite of
intense finish is broadly conceived and rich and glowing in colour.
The clumsy drawing of the hand that holds the palette is the only
defect in this, one of her masterpieces.  The picture has the added
interest of revealing to us how Vigée Le Brun set her palette.  The
thing is thrilling with life; and the little feminine conceit of
wearing her black wrap is quaintly delightful.

Thenceforth her art has an added sense of style, a fuller statement of
atmosphere; in her handling of paint and employment of colour she was
soon to reach the very height of her achievement.

It was shortly after her return from this journey into Flanders that
Joseph Vernet decided to put down her name for election to the Royal
Academy.  Her portrait of herself created such a sensation that her
election became assured.  She had to paint the usual formal _tableau de
reception_, and chose Allegory, painting her "La Paix ramenant
l'Abondance," which, though a somewhat stilted affair such as Academies
demand, is full of charm--and is still to be seen at the Louvre.  She
was received into the Academy on the last day of May in 1783 in her
twenty-eighth year, and thenceforward had the valuable privilege of the
right to show at the Salon.

Vigée Le Brun had not reached to such rapid and wide success, in spite
of all her charm and youth and the defence that chivalry should grant
to her sex, without setting jealous tongues wagging.  The "Peace
bringing back Abundance" happened to be hung under a canvas by
Ménageot, "The Birth of the Dauphin"; and comparisons between the two
pictures were aimed at creating a slander which there were only too
many ready to believe; for it was supported by certain facts which fell
into place, and took on a suspicious air when pointed to as supporting
evidence.  This Ménageot, who afterwards became Director of the Academy
at Rome, lived in the same house as Vigée Le Brun; and rumour soon got
agog to the effect that he was in the habit of painting, or at any rate
putting the finishing touches to, her work, Pierre, at this time first
painter to the king, had employed this slander in order to oppose her
election to the Academy; he was the leading spirit of a cabal against
her, as soon became known; for he was the victim soon afterwards of a
satirical jingle that went the round of the studios.

She was harassed also by the petty spites of enemies who did not
hesitate to try and have her studio seized under the charge that she
was painting without legal title since she had never been apprenticed
to a painter.  And malignant tongues whispered it abroad that she never
would have been elected to the Academy had it not been done at the
command of the Court.  They made her very friendship with the queen a
whip with which to lash at her.  She was now painting many portraits of
the queen.

Vigée Le Brun spent her entire day at her easel, from the time she
arose in the morning, and she rose early, until the daylight went.  She
gave up dining in the town, in order not to be drawn away from her
work; and the temptation must have been strong for a young and charming
woman so greatly in request.  But at nightfall she went out to social
functions, and herself received the most brilliant and distinguished
members of society and art and letters at her own house, giving
concerts where Grétry, whose portrait she painted, and other celebrated
musicians played portions of their operas before they were seen or
heard upon the stage; whilst the grandees of the old noblesse and the
famous wits frequented her house.

Again, the report of her receptions got noised abroad; and envious
tongues were soon exaggerating the extravagance and luxury in which she
lived, descending to such childish tittle-tattle as that she lit her
fires with bank-notes, that the number of her guests was so great and
so distinguished that, for lack of seats, the marshals of France had to
sit upon the floor; gossip and babble that were to cost her dearer than
she thought, though she laughed it all away with a shrug of her pretty
shoulders at the time.  It was concerning one of her six-o'clock
suppers that a slander was started which was to be a serious menace to
her in after years.

=====================================================================

PLATE VI.--PORTRAIT OF MADAME MOLÉ-RAYMOND

(In the Louvre)

This famous painting of Madame Molé-Raymond, the pretty actress of the
Comédie Française, is one of Vigée Le Brun's masterpieces.  Her brush
is now at its most dexterous use; the laughing pretty woman is caught
like a live thing and fixed upon the canvas as at a stroke as she trips
across the vision, with muff upraised, smiling out upon us as she
passes.  Vigée Le Brun never stated character with more consummate
skill than here; never set down action with more vivid brush, catching
movement flying.

[Illustration: Plate VI.]

=====================================================================

It was an age of small oratory.  Every man who could string a neat
sentence together, scribbled or harangued.  It was boorish and an
unfashionable thing not to be an author, a poetaster, a little orator,
a critic, a dabbler in the arts.  At coffee-houses or clubs,
wheresoever men foregathered, some fellow would mount a table and
harangue his friends.  The bloods caught the vogue, little foreseeing
that it made a hotbed for the airing of discontents, and for the
parading of ideals which alone could blot out those discontents.  All
took to it like ducks to the village pond.  There was much quackery;
some honest noise.

Now it so chanced that at Vigée Le Brun's there was a gathering at
which Le Brun--"Pindar" Le Brun the poet--spouting a discourse,
described a Greek supper.  The idea at once sprang up that they should
have one straightway; they got up the cook and started to set the thing
going, the poet guiding the making of the sauces.  Amidst the general
merriment Vigée Le Brun suggested that they should dress for the
fantastic affair in Greek costume, and arrange the tables and seats
after the antique fashion.  So the jocular business went apace.  It was
a merry party of Athenians that sat down to the feast--"Pindar" Le Brun
wearing laurels in his ridiculous hair, and a purple mantle round about
him; the Marquis de Cubières tricked out with a guitar as a golden
lyre; Vigée Le Brun being chief costumier to the frolic, draping
Chaudet the sculptor and others in as near Greek fashion as could be.
Vigée Le Brun, herself in white robes and tunic, and garlanded with
flowers and veiled, seems to have presided over a rollicking gathering.
The noise of the jollification got abroad.

The banquet cost the frugal Vigée Le Brun some fifteen francs in all;
but in the mouths of the spiteful the tale of its extravagance quickly
grew.  A few days afterwards there was talk of it at Court; and the
king was solemnly assured by "one who knew," that it had cost 20,000
francs.

This unfortunate Greek supper dogged her steps in the wanderings over
the face of Europe that were to be her long exile.  At Rome she was to
discover that it had cost her 40,000 francs; at Vienna it was to rise
to 60,000; and when she reached St. Petersburg she was to find that,
gathering volume on the long journey, it had increased to 80,000
francs, when she scotched the lie and killed it; but not before it had
served her a very ugly turn.

The truth was that she was being made to share the unpopularity that
had fallen upon the queen.  She was painting, and was on friendly terms
with, not only the Royal Family, but with the unpopular ministers and
servants of the crown, and with the noblesse, who in league with the
queen were chiefly concerned in keeping the king from popular measures.
She painted, according to the authorities, in 1785, in her thirtieth
year, the portrait of Calonne though a parchment in the engraving from
it bears the date 1787.  The portrait of the minister set slander going
against the artist, as regards the vast sum paid for it.  The portrait
of the seated minister ends below the knees; and it was of this picture
of the weak Calonne, who clung so limpet-like to office, that Sophie
Arnould, seeing it at the Salon, made the neat remark: "It is because
he sticks to office that Madame Le Brun has cut off his legs."  But
whether she received much or little mattered not much to Vigée Le Brun;
her husband seized and squandered all she earned.  As a matter of fact,
she received 3600 francs for the portrait from Calonne, sent in a
handsome box worth 1200 francs--a couple of hundred pounds at the
outside.  It was a small price compared to the sums she was now
receiving for portraits; Beaujou, the financier, paid 8000 francs (say
300 guineas); Prince Lubomirski 20,000 francs (£800)--not that the poor
maker of these works gained thereby, for her precious picture-dealer
husband had it according to his habit, and she had difficulty and a
scene even to get two louis from the price when she asked the rogue for
it.  However, her reputation ever increased.  She showed at this same
Salon of 1785, in her thirtieth year, the portrait of the little
Dauphin of four years and his seven-year-old sister, the Madame Royale,
seated on a bank, the boy's hat thrown at his feet upon the
flower-strewn ground--a work in which her colour-sense, her fine
arrangement, and her feeling for style reach to their highest flight.
It is perhaps the most wholly successful and most complete and masterly
canvas of her long career.  It hangs in Versailles, a pathetic comment,
this happy moment in the children's life, when the days looked rosy and
all the world was a beautiful garden.

At the Salon of 1787, in her thirty-second year, is record of a picture
of "Marie Antoinette and her Children"; and of herself with her girl;
and, amongst others, those of Mademoiselle Dugazon and of Madame
Molé-Raymond.  This famous painting of Madame Molé-Raymond, the pretty
actress of the Comédie Française, is one of Vigée Le Brun's
masterpieces.  Her brush is now at its most dexterous use; the laughing
pretty woman is caught like a live thing and fixed upon the canvas as
at a stroke as she trips across the vision, with muff upraised, smiling
out upon us as she passes.  Vigée Le Brun never stated character with
more consummate skill than here; never set down action with more vivid
brush, catching movement flying; she never stated life more truly nor
with more exquisite tact than in this bright vision of a dainty woman
of the theatre.

Affairs in France were now in such a huddle that the State could not
pay interest on the public loans.  Calonne could no longer disguise the
serious business from himself or the king.  There was nothing for it
but to call the Assembly of Notables.  They met at Versailles on the
22nd of February 1787.  Calonne fell, to give place to his enemy the
turbulent and stupid Cardinal de Brienne.  The Court was completely
foul of the people when De Brienne threw up office in the midst of
riots in Paris and throughout the country, and, in panic, fled to
Italy, leaving the Government in dire confusion and distress.

The king took a wise course; he recalled Neckar.  The convoking of the
States-General now became a certainty.  Paris rang with the hoarse cry
for the Third Estate.  The wrangle as to the constitution of the
States-General became every day more dangerous.

The last portrait that Vigée Le Brun painted of the doomed queen was
the canvas that hangs at Versailles known as "Marie Antoinette and her
Children," in which the queen is seen seated beside a cradle with the
baby Duke of Normandy on her knee, the little Madame Royale at her
side, and the small Dauphin pointing into the cradle.  When the doors
of the Salon of 1788 were thrown open the painting was not quite
finished; and for some days the frame reserved for it remained empty.
It was on the eve of what was to become the Revolution, and the country
was speaking now in no hushed whispers of the public deficit in the
nation's treasury, and gazing bewildered at the bankruptcy that
threatened the land.  The empty frame drew forth the bitter jest:
"Voilà le déficit!"  The little Dauphin's pointing at the cradle was
not to be without its significance--for the little fellow was to die at
the outbreak of the Revolution and his place was to be taken by the
babe on his mother's knee--the small Duke of Normandy was to become
Dauphin in his place, and, in some few years, with his little sister,
was to be made a close prisoner in the Temple.  The king and the queen,
separated from their children and each other, were to go out to the
guillotine; the girl was to live through the seething hell of the
Terror as by a miracle, and thereafter unhappily enough as the Duchess
of Angoulême; but the fair boy, heir to one of the noblest heritages in
all this vast world, torn from Marie Antoinette whilst the queen still
lived, a prisoner, was to be handed to the tender mercies of the
infamous Simon, jailor at the Temple, who was to train the frightened
child to drink and swear and sing with piping treble the _camagnole_,
until, hidden away in a tower of the prison, he was to die like a
frightened hunted thing, his shirt not changed for months--die in
darkness and squalor and in a filthy state.  The guillotine did no
mightier act of simple godlike vengeance than the day it sheared the
skull from the foul neck of cordwainer Simon.

Marie Antoinette, in this the thirtieth portrait that Vigée Le Brun
painted of her, is no longer the mere careless, gorgeous butterfly of
some ten years ago when the little more than girl-artist first limned
her features in the "Marie Antoinette with a Rose."  The ten years that
have passed are ending in solemn seriousness for the thirty-third
birthday of the French Queen.  The future is a threat.  The people are
demanding rule by Parliament--are singing for it--writing broadsheets
claiming it.

It was about this time of stress and strain and anxiety at Court that,
in 1788, Berger engraved so superbly one of Vigée Le Brun's greatest
portraits, the consummately painted character-study, and exquisitely
dainty colour-harmony of the Marchioness de Sabran.

The elections to the States-General took place amidst indescribable
excitement throughout all France.  The winter which went before the
meeting of the States-General was terribly severe; it came on top of a
bad harvest; the price of bread rose to famine pitch.  Neckar
generously sacrificed a vast part of his private fortune to buy food
for the hunger-stricken poor of Paris.  It was in national gloom that
the States-General met at Versailles on the 5th of May in 1789.  That
day sounded the knell of the Monarchy.

=====================================================================

PLATE VII.-MARIE ANTOINETTE AND HER CHILDREN

(At Versailles)

The last portrait that Vigée Le Brun painted of the doomed queen was
the canvas that hangs at Versailles known as "Marie Antoinette and her
Children," in which the queen is seen seated beside a cradle with the
baby Duke of Normandy on her knee, the little Madame Royale at her
side, and the small Dauphin pointing into the cradle.  When the doors
of the Salon of 1788 were thrown open the painting was not quite
finished; and for some days the frame reserved for it remained empty.
It was on the eve of what was to become the Revolution, and the country
was speaking now in no hushed whispers of the public deficit in the
nation's treasury, and gazing bewildered at the bankruptcy that
threatened the land.  The empty frame drew forth the bitter jest:
"Voilà, le déficit!"

[Illustration: Plate VII.]

=====================================================================

In little over a month the States-General was become the
self-constituted National Assembly; a few days later, on the 20th of
June, the deputies took the solemn oath in the tennis-court--the _jeu
de paume_.  At the queen's foolish urging the king fell back on force;
filled Paris with troops under De Broglie; dismissed Neckar.  The
people at once took to arms.  The 14th of July saw the fall of the
hated Bastille.  On the 22nd the people hanged Foulon to the
street-lamp at the corner of the Place de Grève--and thenceforth the
terrible shout _à la lanterne!_ became the cry of fashion.

Such was the dawn of the Revolution in the streets of Paris, upon which
Vigée Le Brun's eyes gazed down terrified in her thirty-fourth year.

Quickly followed the rumblings of the dark thunder-clouds that came up
in threatening blackness behind the dawn--and which were about to burst
with a roar upon reckless Paris.

The king showed astounding courage and considerable capacity during
these awful days; but his work was constantly thwarted and ruined by
the Court party and the queen.  On the 3rd of October the officers of
the regiment of Flanders were foolishly entertained at Versailles, and
the whole Court being present, the white cockade of the Bourbons was
distributed amidst rapturous approval, and the national tricolour
trodden under foot.  The starving rabble of Paris knew it, by the next
day; and headed by a band of frantic women, set out for Versailles on
the morning of the 5th of October, under the leadership of the ruffian
Maillard who had distinguished himself at the capture of the Bastille.
They overran the palace.  The king again showed superb nerve; and the
mob, abashed and admiring, calling "Long live the king!" withdrew to
the courtyards.  The unfortunate brawl in the courtyard followed; and
the mishap of the night.  The next day the Royal Family had to make
their humiliating journey with the rabble to Paris.

Small hope for Vigée Le Brun, unless she stole out of France, and at
once.  She stood, indeed, in perilous plight.  Her relations with the
Court, and with the nobility, made every hour that she stayed in Paris
a greater danger to her life.  It was dangerous to go into the
streets--dangerous to leave Paris--but for Vigée Le Brun more dangerous
to stay.  She was a marked woman.  There was for her one sole way from
death, and it was flight.  By delaying she risked also the life of her
child.  Her friends begged her to be gone.  She took the girl; searched
hurriedly for all the money she could lay hands on--her husband had
taken all but eighty francs (some three guineas)--and, leaving her
canvases where they stood unfinished, she passed out of the studio that
had been all the world to her; the place where she had spent the
happiest hours of her life.  A few days before, she had had to refuse
to begin a portrait of the future Duchess de Noailles--to save her own
head, not to paint those of others, was now become her single aim.

On the 5th of October of this year of 1789, that fearsome day that saw
the rabble marching to Versailles, Vigée Le Brun took her seat in a
diligence with her little girl, seated between a thief and a jacobin;
the diligence rattled along the cobbles of her beloved city, and out of
the gates--in such fashion Vigée Le Brun left Paris and took the road
for Italy.



V

SWEET EXILE

As she rattled out of Paris between her grim companions, Vigée Le Brun
little thought that her exile would last a dozen years; but everywhere
she went she was destined to be welcomed with honour; and wheresoever
she roamed--and she ranged across the face of the land wellnigh from
end to end of it--she was to receive the same ovations, meet with the
same success, be rewarded with the highest honours.

She went amongst strangers with but eighty francs in her purse out of
all the fortune she had made by her dogged industry; she was to find in
exile, not only a gracious home, but at last an immunity from the
shameless squandering of her earnings by the disreputable thief whom
she had married.

At Turin, her first halting-place, she tarried but a short while.  She
found that her name and fame had gone before her.  At Bologna no French
citizen was allowed to stay for more than twenty-four hours; but for
Vigée Le Brun permission was brought without her asking for it.  She
spent three days gazing at the masterpieces of the Bologna School; and
was made a member of its Academy.

At Florence she was asked to paint her portrait for the celebrated
collection of portraits of famous artists by their own hand at the
Uffizi Gallery.

At Rome the same impressive welcome awaited her.

Here she was soon at work again, with palette and brushes, upon the
portrait of herself, which she had promised to the Gallery at Florence,
where it now hangs--one of the most exquisite heads she ever painted,
sunny, smiling, happy, with youth come back to it.

After eight months in Rome she moved on to Naples.  Here it was that
she painted the portrait of Lady Hamilton, Nelson's Emma, reclining by
the sea, holding a cup in her hand as a Bacchante.  Vigée Le Brun also
painted her as a Sibyl--that picture which she took with her wherever
she went, from town to town, and which always drew a crowd to her
studio; whilst, grimly enough, Nelson's Emma rose to be one of the
famed lovers of romance, to sink into want, and so to death in
loneliness and misery at Calais.

It was at Naples, too, that Vigée Le Brun painted that portrait of
Paisiello which she sent to Paris to the Salon, where it was hung as
pendant to a portrait by David, and led to his high tribute to her
genius, when, after gazing upon it for a long while, he said to his
pupils: "They will think that my canvas was painted by a woman, and the
portrait of Paisiello by a man."

Vigée Le Brun was now painting without cease.  The Queen of Naples, her
two elder daughters, and the Prince Royal, all sat to her.

During the first year of her exile the news from France had not been
greatly alarming, and danger seemed to have been lulled.  But at Naples
she was to hear tidings that caused her bitter grief.  First Neckar,
finding himself out of touch with the king and the people and the
Parliament, retired to Switzerland.  Then, unfortunately for the king,
Mirabeau died in the April of 1791.  The king thenceforth resolved on
escape.  The Royal Family made their ill-starred flight to Varennes; to
be brought back to Paris as prisoners.  The constitutional party in the
Legislative Assembly, at first dominant, soon became subordinate to the
more violent Girondists, with their extreme wing of _Jacobins_ under
Robespierre and of _Cordeliers_ under Danton, Marat, Camille
Desmoulins, and Fabre d'Eglantine.  The Proscription of all emigrants
quickly followed--and the name of Vigée Le Brun was written upon the
lists.  The queen's enmity to Lafayette baulked, and completed the ruin
of, the Royalist hopes.  He retired into exile, and sadly left the
Royal cause to its fate.  On the 20th of April 1792 France entered upon
her supreme struggle with Europe by declaring war.  On the night of the
9th of August the dread tocsin sounded the note of doom to the Royal
cause--herald to the bloodshed of the 10th of August.  Three days
afterwards the king and the Royal Family were prisoners in the Temple.
There followed the terrible September massacres.

The National Convention met for the first time on the 21st of September
1792; decreed the first year of the Republic; abolished royalty and
titles of courtesy; decreed _citoyen_ and _citoyenne_ in their place,
and _tu_ and _toi_ for _vous_.  It also proved the enmity of the two
wings of the now all-powerful Girondist party--the Girondists proper as
against the _Jacobins_ or _Montagnards_.  The conflict began with the
fierce quarrel as to whether the king could be tried.


It was with sorrow at her heart that the exiled artist left Italy and
journeyed into Austria.  Having spent three years in Italy, roaming
from town to town, and being received with honour wherever she went,
she turned her footsteps to Vienna, where she remained from 1792 to
1795, her thirty-seventh to her fortieth years, again to be idolised,
and painting hard the while.  "To paint and to live are the same word
to me," she was wont to say.

=====================================================================

PLATE VIII.--PEACE BRINGING BACK PLENTY

(In the Louvre)

It was shortly after her return from this journey into Flanders that
Joseph Vernet decided to put down her name for election to the Royal
Academy.  Her portrait of herself created such a sensation that her
election became assured.  She had to paint the usual formal _tableau de
reception_, and chose Allegory, painting her "La Paix ramenant
l'Abondance," which, though a somewhat stilted affair such as Academies
demand, is full of charm--and is still to be seen at the Louvre.

[Illustration: Plate VIII.]

=====================================================================

But these years in Vienna must have gnawed at Vigée Le Brun's heart
like a fearful disease.  In her France her much-loved Marie Antoinette
was going through terrible days.  The king was being tried for his
life, and "Louis Capet" knew that he was a condemned man before he
faced his accusers with the rare dignity and courage that keep his
memory green.  He was condemned to death,--Orleans, "Philip Egalité,"
voting with the majority amidst a murmur of universal horror even
amongst the men who condemned the king.  Louis' head fell to the
guillotine on the 10th of January 1793.  War with Europe followed; and
the deadly struggle between the Girondists and Jacobins for supreme
power.  The 27th of May saw the appointment of the terrible Secret
Committee of Public Safety.  By June the Girondists had fallen.
Charlotte Corday's stabbing Marat in his bath left the way clear to
Robespierre's ambition.  The Jacobins in power, the year of the Reign
of Terror set in--from July 1793 to July 1794, with Robespierre as lord
of the hellish turmoil.  The famous "Loi des suspects" soon filled the
prisons with some two hundred thousand miserable prisoners.  The
scaffold reeked with blood.  During the year of the Terror the
guillotine sheared the heads from fourteen hundred victims.

The unfortunate queen, Marie Antoinette, whose hair had gone white in a
night, was tried as "the widow Capet," going to the guillotine with
majestic serenity on the 16th of October 1793.  The Girondist deputies
followed; also the despicable Egalité Orleans, who went to his doom as
the dandy he was, blotting out his many sins in a final dignity.
Amongst the many batches came the miserable Du Barry, shrieking with
terror, to her awful death, which she had brought upon herself by
foolishly advertising a reward for a robbery from her house of
Louveciennes.

Then came strife amongst the Jacobins themselves.  Danton and
Robespierre fought the bloodthirsty villain Hébert for life, and
overthrew him; the Hébertists went to the guillotine like the curs they
were.  Danton, with his appeals for cessation of the Terror, alone now
stood between Robespierre and supreme power; Danton, Camille
Desmoulins, d'Eglantine, and their fellows went to the guillotine.

But other as able and resolute men had determined that Robespierre and
his Terror must end; Robespierre went to the guillotine.  The
Revolution of the Ninth Thermidor put an end to the Terror in July 1794.

It was whilst at Vienna, in her thirty-ninth year, on the 3rd of June
1794, during the Terror, that Vigée Le Brun took out her act of
divorce.  And it was in this year that "citizen Le Brun" published in
Paris his _Précis historique de la vie de la citoyenne Le Brun,
peintre_!

In her fortieth year Vigée Le Brun went from Vienna to Prague; and,
getting roaming again, passed through Dresden to Berlin and on to St.
Petersburg, where she arrived in the July of this same year of 1795.

Her welcome in St. Petersburg must have been very sweet to the
wandering exile.  On the morrow of her arrival the Empress Catherine
had her presented.  She found at St. Petersburg many of her old
friends, fled from the Revolution.

To her all Europe became a second country; but St. Petersburg her
second home.  Here, in fact, were larger numbers of those that had
meant Paris to her than she could now have found in Paris itself.  She
was besides a spoiled child of the Court.

Her life at St. Petersburg was a very busy one.  She settled down at
once to the industrious practice of that art that was breath and life
and holiday to her--working from morning until nightfall, and happy in
it all.  She painted something like forty-eight portraits in St.
Petersburg.  The Empress Catherine, now an old woman, was to have sat
to her, and had appointed the day and hour, but her "to-day at eight"
was not to be; apoplexy struck down her good-will; she was found dead
in her room.  The six years in St. Petersburg were amongst the happiest
years of the artist's life, and the richest for her fortunes.  Her
reception into the Academy of St. Petersburg was almost a State triumph.

Meanwhile, the armies of France were winning the respect of the world
by their gallantry and skill in war.  The 23rd of September 1795 saw
France ruled by the Directory.  The 5th of October, the "Day of the
Sections," led to Napoleon Bonaparte's employment as second in command
of the army--the young general was soon commander-in-chief.  And France
thenceforth advanced, with all the genius of her race to that splendid
and astounding recovery of her fortunes and to that greatness which
became the wonder of the world.

The Revolution of the 18th and 19th of Brumaire (9th and 10th November
1799) ended the Directory and set the people's idol, Napoleon
Bonaparte, at the helm of her mighty State as First Consul.

There was now little need--indeed there had not been for some time any
need--for Vigée Le Brun to remain an exile; but, as a matter of fact,
exile she had found to be so sweet a thing, so magnificent and
perpetual a triumph, so delightful an existence, that Paris had early
ceased to call her.  Her experience with her rascally husband scarcely
beckoned her back to her old home; she was now sole mistress of her
considerable earnings.  Besides, the Paris of her delight had been the
Paris of Marie Antoinette--aristocratic Paris.  Where was that Paris to
be found?  The personages and the atmosphere and the palaces and homes
of all that Paris meant to her were gone into thin air--a sad memory.
During her exile her mother had died; her last link with Paris died
with her.  She probably rarely gave the city of her youth's delight a
thought, and likely enough never would have given it another serious
one, had not destiny now struck her a blow which she bitterly resented;
but which she should have foreseen to be as inevitable as death.  Her
daughter betrothed herself to, and married, a Russian, M. Nigris,
secretary to the Count Czernicheff.  Vigée Le Brun had been sorely
tempted to oppose the match, for she foresaw that the girl would find
no happiness in the union.  She had poured out upon her child all the
passionate love that had been so miserably thwarted in her own
marriage.  It had been more than bitterness to her to note that whilst
her love for her girl increased, the girl's love for her seemed to
dwindle.  It was the bitterest blow that Vigée Le Brun had ever known;
and she had been struck more than once.  It turned the wanderer's eyes
homewards to her wrecked Paris.  Russia was no longer a delight to her.
She became restless.  The wander-fever came upon her; she got roaming;
she went to Moscow for five or six months; but she could not
settle--she decided to leave Russia.

The people amongst whom she had lived so long showed their affection,
and personally appealed to her to make her home amongst them.  The
grandees went to her and told her of the sorrow that the news of her
going had brought to them.  The Emperor Alexander the First, himself,
begged her not to leave them.  She fenced all their kindnesses by
promising to return soon.  But during the forty years that remained to
her she never set foot again in her "second home."

In her forty-sixth year Vigée Le Brun left Russia, and turned her face
towards Paris; she crossed the border into Germany and halted a short
while in Berlin to paint a few portraits, and in order to go to Potsdam
to paint the Queen of Prussia.  On leaving Berlin she narrowly escaped
losing her diamonds and gold, a servant of the inn making an attempt to
force open the baggage that contained them.  From Berlin she roamed to
Dresden, where she seems to have hesitated, reluctant to bend her steps
towards Paris, yet torn with desire to go.  As she came nearer to
France her desire to return conflicted with her horror at the memories
which the tragedy and wreckage of the Terror raised like ghouls in her
imagination--every well-loved spot would now bear witness to her of the
ghastly crimes that had swept away her old friends, their once masters
and mistresses.



VI

THE END

At last, the year after Napoleon, with great pomp, took up his official
residence as First Consul at the palace of the Tuileries, Vigée Le Brun
set foot on French soil after twelve years splendid exile, carrying
with her a considerable fortune.

The egregious Le Brun seems to have been reconciled, for he took a
leading part in her reception. As she stepped out of the carriage she
found herself in the arms of her brother and his wife, amidst tears of
joy--with Le Brun in attendance.  In her home, which was gay with
flowers, everything else was exactly as she had left it, except that
above her bed was a crown of golden stars set there by "citizen Le
Brun."  The long-suffering Vigée Le Brun was deeply touched; but could
not forget that the unconscious wag had made her pay dearly for the
golden stars.

Concerts and ovations greeted the returned exile; but it was all a
strange world.  A few old friends--and the rest, kindly strangers.  She
grew restless, and in six months was setting out for London.  Here she
found herself amongst hosts of old friends; and the doors of the great,
as everywhere, thrown open to her.  She painted George the Fourth and
Byron amongst many others.  The rage for portraits by her kept her in
England for three years; and it was her fiftieth year (1805) before she
returned by way of Holland and Belgium into France.

But in the midst of the great sea of adventure that swept France along
under Napoleon she seems never to have got her bearings.  She roamed to
Switzerland twice, and painted some two hundred pastel landscapes of
its scenery.  It was during her first visit thereto that she met and
painted Madame de Staël as "Corinne."

The years were increasing, the fever for travel cooled, and Vigée Le
Brun, buying a house at Louveciennes, thenceforth passed her days
between her country-house and town-mansion.

Death began to make gaps amongst such old friendships as the guillotine
had spared to her.  Le Brun died in 1813; her daughter in 1819; her
brother the following year.  Her art began to fail her.  But her
closing years were illumined by the affection and care of her two
nieces, Madame de Rivière and Madame Trippier le Franc.

At five of the morning of the 30th of March in 1842, she died in her
apartment at No.  29 Rue St.  Lazare, in her eighty-seventh year; and
was buried according to her wish at Louveciennes, where, in the church,
still hangs the picture of "Ste.  Genevieve" painted by her.  Even her
poor dead body could not sleep where she had willed; she was destined
to gentle exile even after death.  Her remains were moved to the new
cemetery, and the simple tomb was again set up over them, whereon one
may see a palette and brushes chiselled at its summit, and the grim
words: "Here, at last, I rest."



PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN.



  IN THE SAME SERIES

  ARTIST.                    AUTHOR.

  VELAZQUEZ.                 S. L. BENSUSAN.
  REYNOLDS.                  S. L. BENSUSAN.
  TURNER.                    C. LEWIS HIND.
  ROMNEY.                    C. LEWIS HIND.
  GREUZE.                    ALYS EYRE MACKLIN.
  BOTTICELLI.                HENRY B. BINNS.
  ROSSETTI.                  LUCIEN PISSARRO.
  BELLINI.                   GEORGE HAY.
  FRA ANGELICO.              JAMES MASON.
  REMBRANDT.                 JOSEF ISRAELS.
  LEIGHTON.                  A. LYS BALDRY.
  RAPHAEL.                   PAUL G. KONODY.
  HOLMAN HUNT.               MARY E. COLERIDGE.
  TITIAN.                    S. L. BENSUSAN.
  CARLO DOLCI.               GEORGE HAY.
  LUINI.                     JAMES MASON.
  TINTORETTO.                S. L. BENSUSAN.

  _Others in Preparation._





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