Portrait of a Young Woman as a Vestal Virgin

François Hubert Drouais French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 631

Disguise was frequently used by fashionable portraitists like Drouais. It allowed sitters to convey added layers of information about themselves through reference to myth and ancient history. Traditionally, Vestal Virgins were ancient Roman women devoted to Vesta, goddess of the hearth, alluded to here in the brazier on which offerings might be made. This guise was well suited to eighteenth-century women who were unmarried or about to marry. This unknown sitter’s gold-trimmed robe is not contemporary dress but a historicizing costume; her pose, unveiling herself, is typical of the simultaneously chaste and alluring nature of this particular disguise.

Portrait of a Young Woman as a Vestal Virgin, François Hubert Drouais (French, Paris 1727–1775 Paris), Oil on canvas

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