Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Portrait du Jour: Mesdemoiselles Mollien

Georges Rouget, Mesdemoiselles Mollien, nieces du Comte Mollien. Early 19th century, I would say 1805-1810 judging by the large, beautiful bonnet the girl on the right is holding. I adore this painting! It is so lovely in its simplicity. Georges Rouget was a disciple of the neoclassical master Jacques-Louis David, and painted firmly within the bounds of traditional neoclassicism throughout his entire career. He was a big favorite of David, and thus Napoleon as well, and did several different well-known pieces for Bonaparte, particularly when Napoleon married Marie-Louise of Austria (gaaaag). You can really see the amazing, life-like clarity of neoclassical portraits here. They were like photographs, only better; the layers of the green shawl, the detail in the lace edging of the cream-colored dress, the pearly luminosity of the skin-beautiful! Their dresses are amazing, particularly the creamy one on the right. It looks like the most comfortable nightgown imaginable. Their pinned-up curls have a windswept, natural look, as though they were out for a walk and the artist happened upon them. Who were these darling girls? Sadly, I can't find much information on them, except that their names were Francoise-Elisabeth Mollien (left) and Gaspard-Pauline Mollien (right). Their uncle, Comte Mollien, was Napoleon's finance minister, and by all accounts he was a pretty good one, and probably able to provide well for his nieces. They look like sweet, shy, affable young women, and the one on the right was the future mother of the philosopher Felix Ravaisson-Mollien, who said that in his childhood many neoclassical artists frequented his home and his mother's salon, including the great master, Jacques-Louis David, himself! Now that's my kind of salon!

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