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Jacques-Louis David, Portrait of the Comtesse Vilain XIIII and her Daughter

Key facts
Full title Portrait of the Comtesse Vilain XIIII and her Daughter
Artist Jacques-Louis David
Artist dates 1748 - 1825
Date made 1816
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 95 × 76 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1994
Inventory number NG6545
Location Room 45
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of the Comtesse Vilain XIIII and her Daughter
Jacques-Louis David

This portrait is one of the first painted by Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) when he chose exile in Brussels in 1816 following the fall of Napoleon, whom he had supported, and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. Isolated from Paris, David relied mainly on painting portraits of Brussels citizens and fellow Napoleonic émigrés to earn a living.

David rarely painted portraits of families and children. Here he captures the affection between the Comtesse, Sophie, and her five-year-old daughter, Marie-Louise, but without sentimentality or idealisation. This restraint and realism are echoed in the plain background and absence of lavish accessories or furnishings.

The Comtesse Vilain XIIII had formerly been a lady-in-waiting to the Empress Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s second wife, and had attended the baptism of their son, Napoleon II, the King of Rome.

There are only two paintings by David in Britain – this, and the National Gallery’s Portrait of Jacobus Blauw.

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