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Self Portrait by Marie Guillemine Benoist, 1790, France

Marie-Guillemine Benoist, born Marie-Guillemine de Laville-Leroux (December 18, 1768 – October 8, 1826), was a French neoclassical, historical and genre painter.

Notes from WIKIPEDIA

"Marie-Guillemine Benoist was born in Paris, the daughter of a civil servant. Her training as an artist began in 1781 under Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and she entered Jacques-Louis David's atelier in 1786 along with her sister Marie-Élisabeth Laville-Leroux. [...]

"Her work, reflecting the influence of Jacques-Louis David, tended increasingly toward history painting by 1795. In 1800, she exhibited Portrait d'une négresse [illustrated left] in the Salon. Six years previously, slavery had been abolished, and this image became a symbol for women's emancipation and black people's rights. This picture was acquired by Louis XVIII for France in 1818. Elisa Bonaparte, Emperor Napoleon's sister and Duchess of Lucca, was painted by Marie Guilhelmine Benoist about 1805.

"An important commission, for a full-length portrait of Napoléon Bonaparte—Premier Consul Français in this period—was awarded to her in 1803. This portrait was to be sent to the city of Ghent, newly ceded to France by the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801. Other honors came to her; she was awarded a Gold Medal in the Salon of 1804, and received a governmental allowance. During this time she opened an atelier for the artistic training of women."

« Illlustration left
Portrait of a Negress (detail, 1800)
(Portrait d'une négresse)
by Marie-Guillemine Benoist


Notes from DICTIONARY OF
WOMEN ARTISTS (VOL 1) ed. by Delia Gaze

"In late 1797-8, relatively poor, Benoist was reduced to illustrating books translated by her husband, which included Marie or the Unhappiness of Being a Woman," and Memoirs of Miss Bellany. She missed exhibiting at the Salon [d'Orsay] of 1798, but returned by 1799 with further portraits. Her renowned Portrait of a Negress, exhibited at the Salon of 1800, was possibly inspired by Girodet's portrait of Jean-Baptiste Bedley, exhibited at the Salon in 1798. Benoist's painting represents a woman probably encountered at the home of her brother-in-law Benoist-Cavy, a naval officer who had married in Gradaloupe and travelled to Gayana. [...] Benoist's picture is a study of dark and light, a picture with contrasts with the black woman dressed in white costume, turbaned in white, with one breast exposed, while gazing serenely at the viewer."

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