The Easel

30th August 2022

The drama of Madame Lebrun

Le Brun, a favourite of Marie-Antoinette in pre-Revolutionary France, was a “leading portraitist of her age”. Accused of being a “flatterer” and a narcissist, she was written out of art history until a recent rehabilitation. Any rehabilitation, says the writer, is “preposterous … [she painted] people as if they’re as dull as drapes”. Others counter that Le Brun needed to self-promote to overcome the misogyny of her times. As for flattery – isn’t that the calling card of portraitists everywhere?