Famous Artwork: the Portrait of Madame Récamier

The Portrait of Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David.
The Portrait of Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David.

The portrait of Madame Récamier is a portrait by Jacques-Louis David for Juliette Récamier who was a famous socialite of Paris. It shows Juliette Récamier in ordinary Empire line dress, reclining on Directoire style sofa at Neoclassical fashion height. She also has short hair and almost bare arms.

Background of Jacques-Louis David

Jacques-Louis David was a preeminent painter in France during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. He actively supported the French revolution during the period 1758-1794. Besides, David dictated the arts during the reign of French Republic. He was sent to prison after Robespierre fell from power and after he was released, he supported the Napoleon regime and developed an Empire style for himself during the administration. David later went into exile in Brussels, after the end of Napoleon’s regime. From Brussels, he moved to the United Kingdom where he spent the rest of his life. Jacques-Louis David was the strongest artist in France during the nineteenth century because he had a lot of pupils whom he taught mostly the salon painting.

Period of the Painting of the Portrait of Madame Récamier

Jacques-Louis David painted Madame Récamier in the year 1800 when he was asked to paint it because he frequently visited Juliette Récamier salon. However, it is believed that he did not complete it because Madame Récamier ordered François Gérard to paint a similar portrait which he completed it in 1802.

Legacy of the Portrait of Madame Récamier

The painting portrays the ideal of feminine elegance from the graceful recline of Recamier turning her head to the viewers. Her stylish dress is also the part of female beauty which made her be among the most admired women during that time, despite the fact that she was still young. Therefore, the legacy of the portrait, in this case, is the beauty of women to have the ability to bring revolution through optimization of the social ascension.

The unfinished state of the portrait made David unsatisfied with it. He wanted to complete it, but he did not have a chance since Madame Récamier thought he was too slow in painting it and commissioned Gérard to do it. Consequently, he said that women and artists have whims and so he wanted to satisfy his by keeping the portrait. In 1826, when the portrait entered Louvre, the public saw it, and in 1864 a piece of writing, “indescribable attraction, like the poetry of the unknown." by Théophile Gautier came in as a legacy of David’s desire.

Location and Appraisal

The portrait is currently in the largest museum in the world, Louvre in Paris. The museum is also number three in the list of the most visited museums in the world. Portrait of Madame Récamier is one of the 38,00 objects kept in Louvre from prehistory to the 21st century. The financial worth of one piece of Portrait of Madame Récamier is $90, but the price can be higher than that depending on the quality of the painting and the modes of delivery to the buyer.


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