How Easy is it to Choose a Career when you’re Royalty?

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Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun’s career centered around her royal affiliations. She was born in France in the 1700s, and just like the aforementioned painters, her father, Louis Vigée, was also an artist. He supported her passion for the arts and did not prevent her from learning valuable artistic skills. Her skills attracted the attention of Queen Marie Antoinette. Vigée-Le Brun created a portrait of her majesty, who loved it so much that she deemed Vigée-Le Brun the Queen’s favorite artist (50 pg. 55).

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This royal relationship helped Vigée-Le Brun’s career to thrive. One important obstacle the Queen removed from her path relates her husband, Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun. Due to his profession as an art dealer, the Académie Royale de Peinture initially refused to accept Vigée-Le Brun because of her connection to the art business.

Fortunately, the Queen made sure that the Academy accepted Vigée-Le Brun (pg.44 Broadstrokes). Vigée-Le Brun’s success soared following her admittance into the Academy. She more portraits for the royal family, and exhibited many of her works at the Académie Royale de Peinture. When the French Revolution began, Vigée-Le Brun was at risk due to her connections to royalty. The painter, however, demonstrating an adaptable and determined nature, moved to Italy until the revolution ended (50 pg. 55). This wise move saved her career. Not everyone felt the need to adjust in analogous situations. In many ways, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard echoed the path of Vigée-Le Brun. The Académie Royale de Peinture voted to accept her and she also painted for royals. In fact, Labille-Guiard was so successful that she exhibited at the Academy’s Salon, a feat achieved by few women at that point.

She differed from Vigée-Le Brun because she chose instead to stay in France during the revolution despite her connections to the very royals the revolution fought. While she avoided the guillotine, the new ruler demanded the destruction of all of her old work for the previous royal family (Broadstrokes pg. 42-49). In contrast, even without France’s royal family’s patronage, Vigée-Le Brun had a “confident manner in the presence of nobility, her diligence, and her skills secured for Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun not only fame and numerous commissions from the courts of Europe, but also five honorary memberships in the academies concerned” (50 pg. 55).

Under her new friendship with Czarina Catherine II and her family, Vigée-Le Brun’s reputation as a brilliant portraitist continued. She produced hundreds of portraits, including one self-portrait of her and her daughter (50 pg. 55). This painting not only illustrates their bond but it also demonstrates Vigée-Le Brun did not choose between marriage and career. She chose both, unlike many women who succumbed to societal pressures and abandoned a career of independence for their duty to family. Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun’s adept ability to develop and sustain relationships with royalty allowed her to have a long and successful painting career.

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How easy is it to choose a career when you're royalty?. (2022, Oct 05). Retrieved February 8, 2023 , from

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