Saturday 25 March 2017

The Portraiture of Women

Now, with age, comes a new tranquillity ... a new bravery. Mme. David and her daughter are charmless women and no attempt is made to rearrange them, to work an act of artistic leger-de-main with their shawls and their sleeves and their head dresses, as would have been managed by Ingres ... to convey depths of hidden fascination. David's great gift to the portraiture of women is to show them not as they would wish to be shown as temple prostitutes, but rather as sturdy, confident creatures, no less competent but far less vain than men. Mme. David, still dressed in the satin shift, false curls and feathers she wore to court, reveals no hidden depths of erotic experience. She has no illusions about her appearance and neither has the spectator ... This revision of the concept of the female portrait, this fully frontal confidence and honesty, this refusal to embroider or even to arrange, must be counted as one of the aging David's most vital achievements.
Brookner, Jacques-Louis David, Ch. 12, 'Not Quite What We Desired'

David, Mme. David, Washington

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