Oil on canvas, oval: 287/8 x 233/8 inches
(73.3 x 59.5 cm.)
Signed and dated upper middle: L V Le Brun f 1785
Sterling and Francine Clark Art
Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts
The luxuriant powdered tresses of this female follower of the god of wine are wreathed with clusters of grapes and autumn-touched
leaves. Her flushed cheeks, sparkling eyes, and laughing mouth all betray intoxication. The theme of the Bacchante was occasionally exploited by Vigee Le Brun - for example, in the early 1790s she will appropriately revert to it in two of her portraits of Emma Hart (see cat. no. 31)-but the voluptuousness expressed in this particular painting has no equivalent in her work. The beautiful three-quarter length Bacchante in the Musee Nissim de Camondo,
Paris (fig. 17), painted the same year for the Comte de Vaudreuil, appears almost chaste by comparison.
Musee Nissim de Camondo. Paris
|Art Page 39
Attempts have been made to identify the model of Williamstown's Bacchante (she has been thought to represent Lady Hamilton and the actress Mme Mole Raymond), but it is highly
unlikely that we are dealing with a portrait. The painting was
probably executed for an amateur of erotica who specified the type of composition he required. It is known that Vigee Le Brun painted a number of such fanciful pictures on commission.
|Jean Baptiste Greuze|
Private Collection, U.S.A.
The genre to which the painting belongs owed its popularity to Greuze (fig. 18), and it was employed by contemporary portraitists
like Antoine Vestier (Bust of a Woman, Musee de
Tours) and Adelaide Labille Guiard, whose pastel of 1779 entitled L'Heureuse surprise (see A.-M. Passez, AdeIaide Labille-Guiard,
1973, pp. 74-75, no. 13) communicates a similar impression of wanton abandonment. It also has much in common with the terracotta Bacchantes of Clodion and Marin (fig. 19).
|Joseph Charles marin|
PROVENANCE: Collection of Mme Seube, Toulouse (her sale, Toulouse,Hotel des Ventes, October 28, 1929); Wildenstein, Paris and New York; acquired in 1939 by Sterling and Francine Clark.
EXHIBITIONS: Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, Exhibition of Forty-Three
Portraits, January 26-February 10, 1937, no. 32, illus.; Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Exhibit Seven: The Regency and Louis XVI Rooms,
1957, no. 303, illus. pl. IV.
REFERENCE: List of Paintings in the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute,
Williamstown, Mass., 1972, p. 118, no. 954, illus.