Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun

(1755 – 1842) SELF PORTRAIT IN STRAW HAT, 1782

The work seems to have been inspired by Rubens’s portrait of Susanna Lunden, called ‘Le Chapeau de Paille’ (The Straw Hat), also in the National Gallery, which Le Brun had seen in Antwerp. In fact, Rubens portrayed Susanna Lunden in a felt hat. In her self portrait, Le Brun tidied up this anomaly. – Portrait and information at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun (self portrait) 1782


I am sped back and forth into the blue day

her eyes meet mine and absorb my gaze

clouds defy gravity and leave me breathless

with wonder

Her still life persona

whispers anxious thoughts of separation

and I fear for my sister-self alone in the world

without my company

How we lie and cheat the both of us

considering how best to manufacture the illusion

mixing the substance of fact and fiction to the bold look

that hides self doubt

The dress and shawl flowing

carefully arranged into the natural look of grace and ease

silver shining fingernails, like small shells

washed clean by turpentine

The hat – how compelled I feel to lift it off

to remake it – shifting captured intellect

still with a wayward feather – a circle of bright flowers

more blue sky

Glittering eyes and voices will haunt her

the buzz of societies noise clatter on at will

and I must live our lives while she stays twenty five

and I grow old

(something I wrote some time ago in relation to the painting)

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