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Angelica Goodden

Angelica Goodden a fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, is writing a biography of the painter Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun.

Just Sceaux Stories

Angelica Goodden, 23 February 1995

It is as well to establish at the outset what Madame du Deffand was not. She was not, whatever the publisher of Benedetta Craveri’s book may claim, a woman who ‘approached love and sex with a frankness centuries ahead of her time’: her time was the 18th-century Regency, which took a casual view of fidelity, and the hedonistic age of Louis XV. She died in the reign of Louis XVI, a couple of years ahead of the publication of Laclos’s Les Liaisons dangereuses, which may be read as, among other things, an exposé of the immorality of the Ancien Régime. But on any count she was a remarkable woman, perhaps the brightest in a constellation of salonnières which included Madame Geoffrin and Julie de Lespinasse, and she held triumphant court in that pre-Revolutionary age when, as Madame Vigée Le Brun put it, ‘woman reigned supreme.’ Her story and that of her age are marvellously well told by Craveri, who succeeds in bringing a whole world to life.

Angelica Kauffman

Rosemary Hill, 15 December 2005

Lady Elizabeth Foster sits beneath a tree and avoids our gaze, lost, it seems, in thought. Behind her the Italian countryside is bathed in a warm autumnal light that sets off the delicate white...

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Royals in Oils

Peter Campbell, 13 November 1997

In her portraits Elizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun did her very best to give a pleasing account of the facts of the flesh. The faces are attractive, the expressions forthcoming and responsive....

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The Amazing Mrs Charke

David Nokes, 1 June 1989

In her ingenious ‘autobiography’ of Delariviere Manley, A Woman of No Character (1987), Fidelis Morgan contrived an effect of literary trompe l’oeil. Artfully interweaving...

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