100 Days of Art History Jinjins


Portrait of Madame Récamier

This is a famous painting in the Louvre. It actually makes an appearance in Beyonce's music video for Apeshit. I got so excited by that video, because in a way it was doing something similar to this project. Both of us were putting non-white faces into spaces where we're traditionally excluded.

The painting itself is a perfect example of a Parisian social type--the Merveilleuse. Merveilleuses were like the hipsters of the era just after the French Revolution. They were a rebellious youth movement known for outlandish clothing. They were very into looking like Greek goddesses and wearing what was for them, scandalously minimal gauzy clothing. The dresses were sheer, almost transparent, and they would wet them to make them cling more. Also, no one was wearing bras and their nipples were just out. There's more information on this fashion movement on this podcast episode: Incredible and Marvelous: Fashion's First Hipsters.

The subject of this painting, Juliette Récamier, was a great example of a Merveilleuse. She was a socialite who hosted lots of salons with the leading culture makers of the day. You can see the Greek-inspired Merveilleuse look reflected in her hairstyle, dress, and bare feet. The artist, Jacques-Louis David, is the preeminent example of a French Neo-Classical painter. He painted many history paintings depicting Greco-Roman stories along with the famous luminaries of his day. His most famous painting might be Napoleon Crossing the Alps.

Reference image is from Wikipedia. It's now in the Louvre in Parris.

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