Marie-Guillemine Benoist Portrait d’une négresse 1800

Hollee explored the Louvre, while in Paris and sent me this postcard, featuring one of her favourites painted by Marie-Guillemine Benoist.  Of this artist, Wikipedia notes…

“She was born in Paris, the daughter of a civil servant. Her training as an artist began in 1781 under Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and she entered Jacques-Louis David‘s atelier in 1786 along with her sister Marie-Élisabeth Laville-Leroux.

The poet Charles-Albert Demoustier, who met her in 1784, was inspired by her in creating the character Émile in his work Lettres à Émilie sur la mythologie (1801).

In 1791 she exhibited for the first time in the Salon de Paris, displaying her mythology-inspired picture Psyché faisant ses adieux à sa famille. Another of her paintings of this period, L’Innocence entre la vertu et le vice, is similarly mythological and reveals her feminist interests—in this picture, vice is represented by a man, although it was traditionally represented by a woman. In 1793, she married the lawyer Pierre-Vincent Benoist.

Her work, reflecting the influence of Jacques-Louis David, tended increasingly toward history painting by 1795. In 1800, she exhibited Portrait d’une négresse in the Salon. Six years previously, slavery had been abolished, and this image became a symbol for women’s emancipation and black people’s rights. The picture was acquired by Louis XVIII for France in 1818.”

P1160127 P1160128I think that the painting is exquisite…so warm and the subject, apparently strong, but with eyes that tell a much deeper story.

While people spill over one another in order to visit the Mona Lisa and the Impressionists (and YES, these are amazing visual experiences), it is sometimes a marvel to discover unexpected treasures.  The Louvre is an intense experience and unless one has booked in days to exclusively explore the Louvre, one must rush past certain periods in order to explore a limited bucket list of offerings.

It’s interesting because while I was visiting the National Art Gallery in London, I fixated on a small painting somewhat tucked away and likely was as captivated by Picasso’s Child and a Dove as Hollee was by Benoist’s beautiful portrait.

I stood in front of this painting and wept.  That’s how powerful the experience was.




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