New App Allows You to Optimize Art History’s Classic Self-Portraits for the Selfie Age

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait, 1790, Uffizi Gallery.
Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1659, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1659, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

If you’re a selfie aficionado, you’ll already know that there are selfie-enhancing apps like CamMe, Perfect365, #Selfie, Facetune, and Makeup. You can alter your eye color, narrow your face, crank up your smile, add blush, lighten your skin, and even add luscious blond locks.

But how do the classics of art historical self-portraiture benefit from a nip here, a tuck there, and a new hairdo? We submitted some of them to the Perfect365 treatment.

Rembrandt van Rijn, above, is known perhaps as much for his searching self-portraits as for his history painting and Biblical scenes. Here, he’s brightened his eyes and put on a little lipstick.

Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait,; c. 1630, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait,;
c. 1630, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Rembrandt’s countrywoman, Judith Leyster, was that very rare figure: a female artist in the 17th century. She was just 19 when her contemporaries started to notice her talent. She’s perked up her look, which concealed her hair, with a stylish red wig that gives her a punk edge.

Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, c. 1624, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, c. 1624, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Parmigianino’s small Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror may have served as a way to demonstrate his talent to potential patrons. Here, he puts his best foot forward with some striking lips and lids.

Jan van Eyck, Portrait of a Man (Self portrait?), 1433, National Gallery, London.
Jan van Eyck, Portrait of a Man (Self portrait?), 1433, National Gallery, London.

It’s not altogether certain that this painting is a self-portrait by Jan van Eyck, but in any event, the severe-looking man staring out from this panel has softened his appearance by brightening up his eyes and adding some pink to fill out his narrow lips.

Hannah Wilke, S.O.S. Starification Object Series, 1974-82.
Hannah Wilke, S.O.S. Starification Object Series, 1974-82.

One of art history’s great feminist artists, Hannah Wilke examined conventional ideas about beauty and femininity. In her S.o.S. Starification Series, she covered herself in vulva-shaped pieces of chewing gum, making the viewer look twice at the typical objectified female form. Here, the black-and-white image gives way to a bit more color.

Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Arm Twisting above Head, 1910.
Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Arm Twisting above Head, 1910.

Egon Schiele’s self-portraits, and his portrayals of his lovers, got pretty steamy at times. Here, he spices things up a bit by adding a duckface, lipstick and blush, and a wig that bursts off the page. Hedwig would be proud.

Horace Pippin, Self-Portrait, 1944, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Horace Pippin, Self-Portrait, 1944, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

After sustaining an injury to his arm during World War I, untrained artist Horace Pippin took up art-making as physical therapy. In this self-portrait, one of just two that he painted, he glams it up with some pink lipstick.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin

Frida Kahlo transmuted a painful life into captivating self-portraits that are emblematic of suffering with attributes like a necklace of thorns. In this work, we’ve brightened things up, narrowed her face, put on some lipstick, and added a slight, knowing smile.

Gustave Courbet, Self-Portrait (The Desperate Man), c. 1843-45.
Gustave Courbet, Self-Portrait (The Desperate Man), c. 1843-45.

Artists have often used their own faces and bodies as the place to test out poses and expressions—as Cindy Sherman will tell you, the artist is the cheapest model around. In his self-portrait as a desperate man,Gustave Courbet hammed it up, tore at his hair, and sent his eyebrows to the sky. Here, sporting a smile and pretty blue eyes, he looks a lot less desperate.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait, 1790, Uffizi Gallery.
Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait, 1790, Uffizi Gallery.

A popular contemporary of Marie Antoinette, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was one of the few highly sought-after female artists admitted to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, and exhibited frequently at the Salon. The artist had a very natural look in her self-portrait, so here, she’s really amped up the femininity.

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L’empreinte de Rubens dans la carrière artistique de Vigée-Lebrun

C’est la découverte du « fameux chapeau de paille » de Rubens – un portrait de sa belle-sœur Suzanne Fourment – qui donna à Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun l’envie de réaliser son propre portrait. Elle était alors en voyage en Flandres avec son mari, le célèbre marchand de tableaux Jean Baptiste Lebrun. Le tableau la « ravit », « l’inspira » et déclencha un tel désir de peindre qu’elle n’eut même pas la patience d’attendre son retour à Paris pour se mettre au travail. « Son grand effet, confie-t-elle dans ses Souvenirs, réside dans les différentes lumières que donnent le simple jour et la lueur du soleil; ainsi les clairs sont au soleil et ce qu’il faut bien appeler les ombres, faute d’un autre mot est au jour » (…) C’est donc le traitement de la lumière par Rubens qui déclencha le processus créateur, et l’on voit en effet comment elle a placé l’ombre au premier temps – ce qu’elle appelle « la lumière du jour » – et avec quelle grâce elle s’est coiffée du même chapeau de paille que Suzanne Fourment. On pourrait croire ainsi qu’Elisabeth s’identifie à la belle-sœur de Rubens, mais il y a une différence énorme entre les deux œuvres : Elisabeth s’est représentée palette et pinceaux à la main comme si le travail sur la lumière la conduisait tout naturellement à une réflexion sur l’acte créateur luimême.

(…) le tableau est construit en référence aux deux principaux instruments du peintre : la palette, bien sûr, et les mains. En mesurant la distance comprise entre les deux mains, nous constatons qu’elle est égale au tiers de la hauteur du tableau. De plus, l’oblique inscrite dans ce tiers central constitue l’axe du corps de l’artiste, autour duquel s’enroule l’énergie qui vient de la main droite, remonte le long du bras vers l’épaule, le visage, puis le chapeau, qui forme, remarquons-le, le signe de l’infini, pour redescendre en arabesque vers la palette chargée de couleurs, comme autant de promesses de création. Enfin, deux partie du corps sont particulièrement éclairées : la main droite naturellement qui semble ainsi capter l’énergie venant de la terre, et la poitrine, qui est le centre du système respiratoire et cardiaque, et en tant que tel, le siège du souffle, du rythme, en un mot de l’inspiration créatrice.

(…) Cet autoportrait aura une énorme influence sur sa carrière. « Peu de temps après mon retour de Flandres, en 1783, le portrait dont je vous parle et plusieurs autres décidèrent Joseph Vernet à me proposer comme membre de l’Académie royale de Peinture », relate-t-elle dans ses Souvenirs.

Self Portrait in a Straw Hat after 1782, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun
Left: Self Portrait in a Straw Hat, after 1782, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun
Right: Portrait of Susanna Lunden(?) (‘Le Chapeau de Paille’), probably 1622-5, Peter Paul Rubens

Pour citer cet article

Bonnet Marie-Jo, « Femmes peintres à leur travail : de l’autoportrait comme manifeste politique (XVIIIe-XIXe siècles). », Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 3/2002 (no49-3) , p. 140-167
URL : www.cairn.info/revue-d-histoire-moderne-et-contemporaine-2002-3-page-140.htm.

The Smile Revolution in Eighteenth Century Paris

Just one smile … Mme Le Brun's outrage-inducing self portrait from 1787. w
Just one smile … Mme Le Brun’s outrage-inducing self portrait from 1787. w

In the autumn of 1787, gallery-going Parisians didn’t know where to look. On the walls of the Louvre hung a self-portrait by the eminent artist Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun. In some ways the painting was deeply conventional. Mme Vigée Le Brun was dandling her infant daughter on her knee in a gesture that managed to invoke both the Virgin Mary and the new bourgeois ideal of “natural” motherhood. The problem was her mouth. It was smiling. Not just an enigmatic Mona Lisa smirk, but a proper one which showed her teeth. Was Vigée Le Brun mad, a slut or some kind of wild revolutionary? The only thing to do was rush past, and pretend you hadn’t seen.

In this compelling Cheshire cat of a book, Colin Jones charts the moment in the mid-18th century when Paris learned to smile. Until that point, the court, tucked away at Versailles, had insisted that everyone kept a straight face. This was partly because France’s most privileged mouths had been spoiled by too much sugar, and no one wanted their black stumps flashed to infinity in the Hall of Mirrors. But it was also because smiling in general risked making you look either plebeian or insane.

To understand why you have to go to the roots. Sourire, a smile, comes from sous-rire, a little laugh, and laughing was something that definitely belonged to the lower orders. Just like a yawn or a fart, a side-splitting guffaw breached the boundary between the body and the rest of the world. This inside-outsideness was fine if you were of a Rabelaisian turn of mind, but disturbing if you weren’t. For in the bellylaugh’s uninhibited rumble, it was possible to hear the stirrings of serious social and political dissent. No wonder the toffs at Versailles kept their mouths clamped shut, refusing to mobilise their features beyond the occasional sneer.

But in the 1760s, Jones argues, all this changed. The court was beginning to cede its prestige to the city, and the city felt like smiling. Bourgeois men had started doing it at work, and also in the coffee houses that were springing up around the bourse. A smile was infectious, closed the gap between friends and strangers, allowed deals to be struck and views exchanged. And whereas women had once been forbidden from showing their teeth in public, now salonnieres such as Suzanne Necker and Marie Thérèse Geoffrin made a point of greeting their guests with an upturned mouth.

Driving all this was a new culture of sensibility that valued the expression of emotion as a marker of an individual’s essential humanity. Indeed, to smile the right kind of smile – truthful, unforced – was to announce yourself as a person of taste, discernment and, above all, feeling. You couldn’t fake it, though. When a few adventurous nobles escaped to the city for the evening and tried pasting on a grin, they were quickly spotted as impersonators and sent back to Versailles where they were made to re-apply a poker face.
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This is a difficult kind of history to pull off. Ancient bones can be dug up from car parks, DNA can be tested centuries later, but expressions are fleeting and leave little trace. Eight years ago, Vic Gatrell published his magnificent City of Laughter, which mapped the satire boom of late Georgian London. But Gatrell had hundreds of Rowlandson and Gillray prints on which to peg his argument about the political power of a dirty chuckle. Jones is obliged to work from thinner material. Still, he does well with the paintings of Jean-Baptiste Greuze, in whose descriptions of bourgeois family life you can spot plenty of jeunes filles and bonnes mamans facing down triumph and tragedy with a stoical smile pinned to their features.

He also pays great attention to literary texts, pointing out how the Parisian reading public became fixated on Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa (1748) not so much because of the overwrought plot but because of the heroine’s lovely smile. Later, Rousseau’s Nouvelle Héloïse (1761) became a bible for thousands of city women who hoped that their own leathered features might be made to move with the same exquisite lability as those of Julie, the smiling-through-tears ingenue who managed to keep everyone cheerful even as she lay dying.

Proving that all these textual and painted smiles migrated to the real world is, of course, another matter. To make his case, Jones points to the rise of a new kind of dentistry. Under the old regime of teeth, anyone suffering from a pesky molar went to the Pont Neuf and put themselves in the hands of a fairground buffoon with a pair of pliers. But from the 1720s, you had the option of visiting the gentlemanly Pierre Fauchard in his well-appointed surgery in the sixth arrondissement, where each tooth was treated like an honoured family friend whose loss was the occasion for deep sorrow. By the middle of the century, Parisian dentists were recognised not simply as master technicians but as midwives to the new sociability. Thanks to their insistence on good oral hygiene, a spray of spittle or blast of halitosis no longer need come between a man and his coffee house confreres.

When the revolution finally arrived in 1789, two years after Vigée Le Brun’s twinkling appearance in the Louvre, there seemed every reason to greet it with a smile. For what enlightened man or woman could quarrel with the promise of universal happiness? But by 1793, the mild and moderate bonheur of the early reformist phase had been replaced with the spiteful cackle of the Terror. To keep on smiling at such a time was to risk looking like a false friend to the people, a secret reactionary who was desperate to keep in with absolutely everyone. All you could do now was make sure that, as you were led away to your death, your features were arranged as they had been in happier times. To smile on the scaffold had become the ultimate act of political resistance.

by Kathryn Hughes

Source: The Guardian

Marie-Antoinette et le joaillier Breguet

Le 16 octobre 1793, la reine Marie-Antoinette est conduite à la guillotine, subissant à quelques mois d’intervalle, le même sort que son époux, le roi Louis XVI. Elle fut l’une des premières et plus ferventes admiratrices des garde-temps créés par A.-L. Breguet. Dans le contexte de la vie de cours des années 1780, qui mieux que Marie-Antoinette pouvait promouvoir Breguet ? Possédant de nombreuses créations du maître, elle transmit son enthousiasme à toute la cour de France ainsi qu’à ses hôtes les plus éminents. Grâce à elle, bon nombre de rois, d’empereurs, de diplomates – parmi lesquels se trouvait un certain Axel de Fersen – développèrent un goût pour les œuvres de Breguet et assirent sa réputation en Europe et au-delà de ces frontières. Fidèle cliente de l’établissement de l’horloger, quai de l’Horloge, jusqu’à sa tragique fin, elle ira en septembre 1792, alors qu’elle était emprisonnée au Temple, jusqu’à demander et obtenir une « simple montre Breguet ». Conservée comme une précieuse relique malgré sa simplicité, cette montre deviendra une pièce de la collection de Sir David Salomons de même que le chef d’œuvre de Breguet, la fameuse montre no 160 appelée la « Marie-Antoinette » que la reine ne vit jamais dans sa forme finale. Commandée en 1783 par un officier des Gardes de la reine dont le nom est resté inconnu, cette montre devait présenter l’ensemble des perfectionnements, complications et raffinements connus à l’époque. Aucune limite n’était fixée, ni pour son prix ni pour le délai. A.-L. Breguet termina le modèle de nombreuses années après la Révolution et le garda en lieu sûr, témoignant ainsi de sa fidélité à la reine.

Par sa complexité et son histoire tourmentée, cette montre a hanté le paysage horloger et le monde des collectionneurs durant près de deux siècles. Dérobée en 1983 dans un musée de Jérusalem, la « Marie-Antoinette » réapparut en 2007, tandis que Montres Breguet présentait la nouvelle « Marie-Antoinette », effectuée à partir de recherches d’archives et de dessins originaux au salon de Bâle 2008.

C’est pour évoquer cette illustre histoire que Breguet s’est inspiré d’un tableau de 1783, du peintre Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun, baptisé « Marie-Antoinette à la rose ». La nouvelle collection « Secret de la Reine » s’est emparée de la fameuse rose du tableau pour la mettre en scène au travers d’un camée, cet art traditionnel du sud de l’Italie qui consiste à sculpter à la main la surface d’un coquillage. Toujours en hommage à Marie-Antoinette, Breguet s’inspire avec sa collection « Les Volants de la Reine » des tenues vestimentaires de la reine qui a lancé une véritable mode des rubans ou des frous-frous. Le collier, orné de saphirs taille coussin, rehausse les volutes sertis de diamants.

http://www.guide-joailliers.com/art,298,les-tresors-de-la-semaine-de-la-haute-joaillerie.html