Madame Pasteur (1795-96). Artist: Antoine-Jean Gros
In one of his portraits entitled “Madame Pasteur” we see a young woman dressed in what appears to be a dress that she should not be seen in for the public’s viewing. However, this portrait was painted from 1795 to 1796; this was towards the end of the French Revolution and fashion at this time changed vastly. Women and men no longer wanted to appear as part of the French aristocracy and instead opted for clothing that was simple as compared to the hoop skirts and intricate details of clothing worn prior to this time. The idea of self and expressing oneself through what one wore also became a trend which is why clothing tended to favor the natural figure instead of tight corsets.
What intrigues the viewer most, especially this viewer is the facial expression seen on the young woman’s face. One viewer states that “the depiction of the young woman in this youthful work is imbued with a lighthearted grace that is the 18th century in spirit” and she does indeed have a lighthearted look about her. The slight smile and the way her eyes seem almost to smile too make it seem as though the artist depicted her right before or after she giggled. The woman’s pose though seems as though it is neither open nor closed; as though she is a bit shy but also willing to engage. Although not much is known about the young lady, this portrait was commissioned by Alexandre Madeleine Pasteur, who may have been the woman herself.
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