Elizabeth Vigée le Brun: Boys Clothing

Figure 1.--This is one of Elizabeth's earliest portraits. Despite her youth, it is a wonderful portrait. "Mon Frere", is a portrait of her brother Etienne Vigée (figure 1). It is often dated 1773, but from her memoirs may have been done as early as 1769. Norice the three-cornored hat and plain jacket, the family was not wealthy at the time. Also notice his quque or pigtail.

Madame Vigée LeBrun was an amazingly prolific artist. She has left us a hugh body of work with images of artistocratic men, women, and children over six decades. While she painted mainly adults, there are also a variety of family scenes and portraits of children. The most notable of course are the French princes and princess, but there are also images of children from the many countries in which she lived and worked and for the may time period. many of these images are busts which feature primarily the face, but many have interesting clothing details as well. Here we are somewhat lijmited by the poor quality of many of the available images. Even the poor quality images, however, help to sibstantiate the pervasivness of the fashion trends even when the image does not permit a detailed assessment. Some of these images are atributed to Vigée LeBrun rather than are positively known to be painted by her. We include these images as our major purpse here is to show fashion trends in boys clothing over time.

Chronological List

Here is a list of the children's portaits done by Madame Vigée LeBrue that we know about. Several are of historical importance, especially those of the French royal family. We have include some images thathistorians are not sure about. In most cases the exact or approximate date of the portraits are known.

Children of Baron D'Esthal (1768-72)

Madame Vigée LeBrun is believed to have painted the Children of Baron D'Esthal sometime between 1768-72. It is another of her early works. One source reports that the portrait was probably done about 1768-69. He believes that these children are the son and daughter of the baronne d'Estat. The source also mentions Omer Louis François Joly De Fleury, I'm not sure what was meant here. Michel-Angélique d'Estat dit Bellecour, Baron d'Estat, was born about 1762, and his sister Denise d'Estat born in 1764 and is the future baronne Gothereau De Billens. Both died at the guillotine in 1794 during the Revolutionary Terror. Others believe that the girl was another sister, Agathe Louise Marie de La Ferté who was born about January 1767. Vigée Le Brun is known to have painted her in 1779. It is difficult to see just what Michel-Angélique is wearing. It does look like a garment that at least looks like a precursor to a skeleton suit with a open lace collar.

Etienne Vigée (1769-73)

This is one of Elizabeth's earliest portraits. Despite her youth, it is a wonderful portrait. "Mon Frere", is a portrait of her brother Etienne Vigée (figure 1). It is often dated 1773, but from her memoirs may have been done as early as 1769. Notice the three-cornored hat and plain jacket, the family was not wealthy at the time. Also notice his quque or pigtail. It is interesting to note that the clothes and hair style seem indestinguishable from what a boy from a similar family would have dressed in Britain and America at the time. Etienne and his brother-in-law Madame Vegéo LeBrun were arrested during the Revolution because she became an emigree. Etienne was never successful finacially and Madame LeBrun helped support him.

Pierre-Hippolyte Le Moyne (1772)

This portrait appears to have been done by Madame Vigée LeBrun in 1772, although it was not mentioned by here, perhaps because it is a pastel and not a formal oil portrait. Pierre was the son J.B. Le Moyne, the noted sculptor. Madame Vigée Le Brun was known to have been a friend of the boy's father. The boy is probably Le Moyne's younger son, Pierre-Hippolyte Le Moyne (1748-1828). He would have been about 14 years old here. He wears what boys traditionaly wore, basically the same style clothes as his father. We do not know what he wore as a younger boy. This was about the time that skeleton suits began to be seen, but at 14 he would have been to old to have worn one.

Comte de Provence (1776-78)

A younger brother of Louis XVI became King Louis XVIII in 1814. A pencil and red and white chalk portrait of the Comte de Provence, future Louis XVIII was done bu Madame Vigée LeBrun. Vigée Le Brun lists painting him in 1776, 1778 and 1781. We are not sure which year this drawing was made, but 1776 or 1778 seems the more likely.

Ferdinand Charles du Berry (1784)

A younger brother of Louis XVI became King Charles X in 1824. He had two children, both born before the Revolution. His second son was Ferdinand Charles du Berry, Duke of Berry (1778-1820). We have little information on how the boys were dressed. We assume they wore skeleton suits like the children of Louis XVI. The image here suggests that they did. Notice the very large, but open collar that Ferdinand Charles was wearing about 1784 (figure 1).

French Dauphne and Princess Royal (1785)

We are not sure about the date of many of these images, but about 1785 looks likely. The Dauphene appears to have worn exclusively longpants skeleton suits after he was breached. Here he wears a pastel one. There may have been a political statement with the young prince wearing long pants to appeal to the sans cullotes, but I am not positive about this. His sister wears a voluminous yellow dress.

French Royal Family (1785)

Here we see Queen Marie Antoinette with her three children. The Dauplne Louis Joseph is seen wearing a colorful orange long pantts skeleton suit with a lace collar. His younger brother is still an infant. Their sister warsa a maroon dress with a yellow edged blue sash. The painting suggests that wealthy French children wore very coloful clothes in the 1780s.

French Royal Family (1785)

This painting of the French royal family, also about 1785 shows the Daupje wearing a white skeketon suit with a blue sash. His sister wears a similarly colored dress.

Le Compte d´espagnac (1786)

This portrait is known as the "Boy in Red" as he wears a bright red jacket. Unfortunately as it is a side view, not a lot of details is available on his clothes. The long hair boys wore before the Revolution still appears to ahve been popular. The boy is the Compte d´espagnac, but I do not have any information about him at this time. One source dates the portrait at 1803. We note that Madame Vegée Le Brun webtt to London in 1803 and stayed 2 years. I am not sure why she stayed so lonf as she referred to it as "Unmerry England". A more likely date is 1786 before the Revolution.

Children of the Actor Caillot (1787)

A charming pair of matching oval portraits were done of the children of the actor Caillot in 1787. Some authorities attribute them to Vigée Le Brun and others to a contemprary artist Greuze. We include them here because who ever the artist was, they are acharming match set showing contempory children's fashion. The boy wears a small, open lace collar, but a waist coat and contrasting blue jacket rather than a skeleton suit. His hair is longish, but does not appear to have been worn with a quque. The girl wears a colored dress cut rather low, but with translucent material matching her head sacrfe to provide more material covering the bodice. The artist also painted a portrait of their father.

The Marquise de Peze and the Marquise de Rouget (1787)

This French family scene shows the the Marquise de Peze and the Marquise de Rouget with her two children. It was painted in Paris during 1787. This is a charming family scene showing how a prosperous aristocratic family in France dressed before the Revolution. The boy wears a maroon long pants skeleton suit with a plain open collar. Hs hair is worn long, but uncurled.

Infant Lisant (1787)

We know nothing about this portrait exceopt that it was titles "Infant Lisant" and that it was dated in 1787. This maeans that it was painted in France, presumably Paris. I am not sure, but Lisant may be the boy's name.

The Dauphne (about 1788)

The Dauphne wears another skeleton suit here. This one was blue. This was painted sometine shortly before his untimely death.

Comte Jules de Polignac (1788)

Madame Vigée LeBrun painted the Comte Jules de Polignac (1780-1847) in 1788. The boy was Auguste Jules Armand Marie, second son of the duc and duchesse de Polignac, who became comte in 1817, and in 1820 was made prince by Pope Pius VII. He served as the prime minister of King Charles X. The portrait shows him wearing what looks like a satin longpants skeleton with a hughe broad-brimmed hat and feather.

The Dauphne (about 1789)

Prince Louis-Charles wears a pink or peach long pants skeleton suit here. I am not positive if his brother had died yet when this painting was done. This image is notable as it is believed to be the first depiction of a modern yo-yo.

The Dauphne (about 1789)

This is another depiction of the Dauphin in 1879. This portrait was an charming informal chalk study. We believe that the most accurate depictions were done by the Queen's favorite artist, Madame Vigée Le Brun. Paintings done before the Revolution are almost certainly the most accurate because after the 1789 Revolution, the imagery of royalty often took on great political significance. The Vigée Le Brun porttaits probably give a much better idea of how he was dressed and the circumstances of his life than any other available images.

Prince Lubomirski (1789)

Here Madame Vigée le Brun painted "Young Prince Lubomirski, amour de la glorie" in 1789. It is more commonly known as "Allegory of a Prince". We are not sure who Prince Lubomirski was. The name sounds Polish. Perhaps he was a deposed Polish prince. We are also not sure why he was painted without his clothes on as a kind of angel with wings. This would have been most unusual for a prince from a ruling family. As the Polish ruling family had been deposed and Poland partioned, perhaps it was more acceptable.

Prince Francesco di Borbone (1790)

Madame Vigée LeBrun painted Francesco di Borbone (1777-1830) in 1790. He was the son of the was the son of Ferdinand IV, King of Naples and Queen Maria Caroline of Austria, sister of Marie Antoinette. Francesco suceeded his father as King of Naples in 1825. His oldest daughter was the well known firey tempered Duchesse de Berry (1798-1870). The portrait was painted in 1790 at the request of the Queen. Vigée le Brun agreed to delay her departure from Naples in order to paint Prince Francesco and his three sisters Maria Theresa (soon to be Empress of Austria), Maria Louisa (later Grand Duchess of Tuscany) and Maria Christina (Later Queen of Sardinia). Francesco unlike his French relations, Franccesco wears a jacket and knee breaches rather than along pants skeleton suit.

Princess Alexandra Golitsyna (1794)

This portrait is of Princess Alexandra Petrovna Galitzine, née Protassov and was painted in 1794. I do not yet have detailed information on the Princess. She holds her nephew Angela. Note the rather short dress the boys wears. Other portraits more commonly show young children wearing longer dresses. This appears to have been painted in Russia where Madame Vigée Le Brun went after a time in Austria, but the date suggests tgat she was till in Austria. Her portraits were very popular with Russian nobels.

Countess Yekaterina Sergeevna Samoilova (1797)

Countess Yekaterina Sergeevna Samoilova, nee Princess Troubetzkoy was painted in St. Petersburg during 1797. The artist was Madame Vigée LeBrun who spent 6 years in Russia during the Revolution. Yekaterina Sergeyevna Samoilova (1763-1830) was the daughter of Prince Sergei Aleksandrovich Trubetskoi and the wife of Count Aleksandre Nikolayevich Samoilov. She was painted with her two children: son Grigori and her daughter Yelena. The impage here unfortunately is a poor copy. It shows Grigori wearing a skeletin suit, not unlike the ones worn by French and English boys. Vigee Le Brun twice painted her sister, Baroness (later Countess) Anna Sergeevna Stroganova.

Monsieur de Solticoff (1801)

Madame Vegée LeBrun traveled to Russia in 1795 with her daughter. While in Russia she painted numerous portraits of Russian nobels who were impressed with her abilities. He portraits commanded quite high commissions. A sketchbook survives of a graphite and chalk studies on paper of 38 portrait drawings of women and children of the Russian court. This boy is referred to as Monsieur de Solticoff. He was sketched just before thd artist left Russia. While Russian peasants dressed differently, court dress was little different from France.

Unidentified German boy (1801)

Madame Vigée LeBrun drew this unidentified German boy in 1801. It was pastel on paper. It was done in Dresden where she stopped briefly during her retirn to France after years of exile. She was traveling from St. Petersburg, having lived in Russia for 6 years. Note that the boy, unlike many boys this age that she painted or drew does not wear a skeleton suit. Pehaps this style was less common in Germany.

Unidentified French boy (1817)

This portrait is titled referred to as "Portrait of a young boy". All we know about it is that it was painted in 1817. Given the date, it was almost certainly painted in France. The clothes show that the boy came from an affluent family. Other than that we know nothing about this boy. It does show that boys in the 1810s were still wearing skeleton suits.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze

The artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze, was a contemporary of Vigée Le Brun Fragonard. He achieved considerable aclaim in pre-Revolutionary France, both for his portaits and genre work. He provides us some wonderful portraits showing how French boys dressed and wore their hair in the 18th century before the Revoluntion. He painted the portraits of some of the luminaries of the Revolution. But in the late 1790s his fortunes declined. Greuze died in poverty and neglect in Napoleonic France. In post-Revolutionary France, his work was ignored and was considered out of fashion. Readers interested in this period may want to also look at the work of Greuze.

Madame Vigée LeBrun Web Site

Most of the images here came from awonderful website devoted to the art of Madame Vigée LeBrun. There is a great deal of art work and historical information on the artists. The gallery of images is a fascinating source of information on girls', womens', and mens' fashions as well as boys' fashions.


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Created: April 16, 2003
Last updated: April 17, 2003