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Work Madame Charles-Louis Trudaine
Department of Paintings: French painting
Madame Charles-Louis Trudaine
© 2004 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier
This young woman, whose plain hairstyle and dress are typical of the Revolutionary period, was the wife of Charles-Louis Trudaine, who belonged to the liberal "haute bourgeoisie". The canvas shows areas of vigorous scumbling, particularly in the red background. The unfinished state of the canvas, which present-day viewers find attractive, is due to the quarrel between Trudaine and David over the Terror.
The discreet charm of a young woman
A refined young woman is sitting with her arms folded, her body in profile, and her face turned toward us. She has a long nose and large, lively eyes. She is wearing a dark dress with a blue belt, and a white fichu over the shoulders; together with the red background, these make up the colors of the Republican cockade. Her loose, unpowdered hair is quite natural, and there is a simple, unaffected charm about her person. The fact that the canvas is unfinished is attractive to contemporary eyes.
A liberal family
This is probably a portrait of Louise Micault de Courbeton (1769-1802), the wife of Charles-Louis Trudaine, a friend of the artist (and not of Madame Chalgrin, the daughter of the painter Joseph Vernet, as was long believed). It is thought to have been commissioned in 1791 or 1792 by Charles-Louis Trudaine. Before the revolution, David had painted The Death of Socrates (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), for the brother of Charles-Louis, Charles-Michel. The Trudaine family belonged to the liberal "haute bourgeoisie", which was initially favorable to the Revolution. The unfinished state of the portrait is probably linked to political events. The Trudaines quarrelled with David because of his support for the Terror. Furthermore, the two brothers went to the scaffold soon after this. The painting demonstrates David's talent as a portraitist, though he was better known as a history painter and the author of The Oath of the Horatii (Louvre), a manifesto of neoclassicism.
The framing creates a sense of intimacy between sitter and viewer. David displays great formal economy. Space is suggested discreetly, and the slender silhouette stands out against a neutral background given immediacy by the vibrancy of the scumbling -- a characteristic of David's later portraits -- and by its redness. The unfinished work was painted without thickness. The scumbling is less apparent in the clothes than in the background, and the pigment is denser in the face. The portrait differs from the majority of those David made before the Revolution, which were meticulously painted, and looks ahead to his portrait of Madame Récamier (Louvre).
BibliographySous la dir. de Schnapper Antoine et Sérullaz Arlette, Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1989, p. 280-281 (Antoine Schnapper).
Jacques-Louis DAVID (Paris, 1748 - Brussels, 1825)
Madame Charles-Louis Trudaine
H. 1.30 m; W. 0.98 m
Bequest of Horace Paul Delaroche, 1890
David and his students
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