Constance Marie Charpentier, Mlle. Charlotte du Val-D’Ognes. ca. 1801
I’d like to thank all my readers who have been over here recently and contributed to wonderful discussions on everything from the black dog of depression to dancing in one’s undies with the curtains closed.
I have not come to your blogs as often as I’d like, due to the requirements of non-blogging life. What’s a person to do except send all the following lovely people my heartfelt appreciation! (Extending, of course to those who visit “under the radar.” You know who you are.)
Purest Green, Fat Frumpy and Fifty, Imogen, jinksy, Anonymous, Protege, Suburbia, Jane, The Dotterel, Nota Bene, FrumpyGibbon, Stephanie N., Ms Lucy, Mardel, Hazel at The Clever Pup, Belette, Suecae Sounds, notSupermum, Lola, Ingrid, Duchesse, Poetikat, drollgirl, Lilith, Penney, ethelmaepotter, tiffany, Midlife Jobhunter, Angela Recada, Cynthia, Doreen, Working Mum, Chris A, Seeker, Ribbon, Jennifer, Velveteen Rabbit, Catherine at A Thousand Clapping Hands, Sugar Cain, Pamela Terry and Edward, Jamtart, Lakeviewer, Sher, sarah, Woman in a Window, Kayleigh, Sparkling Red, Marilynne, vicki archer, Pyzahn, Lorna, Moannie, Lori Ann, Innerspace Yoga, Alette Siri Ane, Audrey, Maria.
You deserve something nice today. So I’m going to share a book I found at a thrift store recently called Women and Art by Elsa Honig Fine. It’s subtitled: “A History of Women Painters and Sculptors from the Renaissance to the 20th century.”
Here’s a photo of my beat-up copy, which cost me $1.25 but which has a wealth of information and inspiration on women artists.
The painting at the top of the post is the work of Constance Marie Charpentier. She lived in Paris from 1767-1849 and was a student of the master Jacques-Louis David. (The white spots on the right top corner are not in the painting. They seem to be there because someone at my house got white-out on the scanner.)
I was rather surprised to note that this was painted in about 1800 1801. Though I’m not especially versed in art history, the simple lines of the window in the corner remind me of more modern work—I was thinking of Edward Hopper.
In 1917 New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired the painting, assuming it was by David. It was one of the museum’s favorite attractions. In 1951, though, the foreign adviser to the museum concluded that Charpentier was the artist.
TIME Magazine printed this story on February 19, 1951:
“One of the most popular paintings in the Metropolitan Museum is a portrait of a pretty art student, Mlle. Charlotte du Val d'Ognes. Scholars have always assumed that Jacques Louis David painted it and surpassed himself in doing so; last week the scholars were proved wrong.
Charles Sterling, Louvre curator and foreign adviser to the Met, did the proving. In the Met's current Bulletin, Sterling confessed he had always viewed Mlle. Charlotte with "a mixture of admiration and skepticism." The complex background, the lighting from behind, the modeling and drawing are all unlike David. Painter-prophet of the French Revolution, David was the sort of man who could and did express disappointment that only 80 aristocrats were guillotined in one morning. Mlle. Charlotte's atmosphere of sweetness & light hardly typifies his work.
What's more, says Sterling severely: "The articulation of the shoulder and the wrist lacks correctness. The legs, of excessive length, betray a mannerism such as David never exhibits in his portraits, and in no such degree as here even in his figure compositions. And when did [David] paint flesh as pink as this and as transparent?"
Finally, Sterling turned up the fact that the painting is reproduced in an engraving of the Paris Salon of 1801—which David boycotted. The Salon catalogue for that year does, however, list several portraits by an obscure follower of David named Constance Marie Charpentier, and a contemporary clipping describes one of them as "a young lady almost entirely in shadow." That one, Sterling reasons, is probably the Met's picture.
His conclusion vastly lowers the portrait's market value (estimated at $100,000), but Mlle. Charlotte remains as springlike and serene as ever.”
Thanks again to all of you…you’re the best.