Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (French, 17551842)
Oil on canvas; oval, 36 1/4 x 28 1/2 in. (92.1 x 72.4 cm)
Bequest of Edward S. Harkness, 1940 (50.135.2)
The sitter was born in India and married George Grand, an Englishman in the colonial civil service. After amorous adventures in Calcutta and London, she settled in Paris in 1783, the year this portrait was exhibited at the Salon. She was eventually divorced and in 1802 married the diplomat Talleyrand, whose portrait by Prud'hon is also in the Museum (1994.190). Contemporary descriptions of Madame Grand's Nordic beauty match her appearance here. Her expression, reminiscent of the seventeenth-century Italian painter Guido Reni, may also have been intended to suggest her indolent and ingenuous nature.