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Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self Portrait in a Straw Hat

Key facts
Full title Self Portrait in a Straw Hat
Artist Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun
Artist dates 1755 - 1842
Date made 1782
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 97.8 × 70.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1897
Inventory number NG1653
Location Room 33
Collection Main Collection
Self Portrait in a Straw Hat
Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

Self Portrait in a Straw Hat is a signed copy by the artist of a very popular self portrait that she painted in 1782 and which is now in the collection of the baronne Edmond de Rothschild. The pose is deliberately modelled on Rubens’s Portrait of Susanna Lunden (?) (also in the National Gallery’s collection), which was formerly, but incorrectly, known as Le Chapeau de Paille (The Straw Hat).

Vigée Le Brun offers us a highly calculated image in which she explicitly associates herself with a great artist and his sitter. Looking at us directly with an open expression as she holds the tools of her profession (a palette and brushes), she presents herself as an elegant society lady and as an accomplished professional artist. By posing outdoors – and not, for example, in a studio – she replicates the contrasting light effects in Rubens’s portrait by combining ordinary daylight with direct sunlight.

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