Young Woman Drawing by Marie-Denise Villers

Young Woman Drawing by Marie-Denise Villers (1801)

My Daily Art Display painting for today is literally a whodunit mystery which may or may not have been solved conclusively and who knows what twists may still come in the future.  It is a work of art which has three different artists and two different titles but having said that, to my mind it doesn,t matter as it is an exquisitely delightful painting.

 In 1951 Charles Sterling, Louvre curator and foreign advisor to the Metropolitan Museum, after some lengthy consideration, stated that the unsigned Portrait of Mademoiselle Charlotte du Val d’Ognes, which the establishment had acquired in 1917, was not the work of Jaques-Louis David the highly influential French painter but by one of his students, namely Constance Marie Charpentier.  So there we have it – just a simple mis-identification of the artist.  Sadly, after this revelation, its value plummeted and so-called artistic experts looked at it again and “tut-tutted” about its poor quality.  Labels on the wall of the gallery describing the work of art were changed but the painting remained in place.

However since that proclamation in 1951 by Charles Sterling the debate has raged as to whether Charpentier did actually paint this picture.   The Metropolitan Museum of New York has now decided that she didn’t paint it and furthermore that have now changed the title of the work to Young Woman Drawing which they now believe was painted by Marie-Denise Villers a female portrait painter of the time.   Whoever painted this work of art, it is still one of the most popular and most enthralling paintings in the New York Museum and for anybody close to this museum, I urge you to go and study it.  

Marie-Denise Villers, known to her friends as Nisa, a gifted French portrait painter, was born Marie-Denise Lemoine in Paris in 1774.   She came from an artistic background with her two sisters, Marie-Victoire and Marie-Elisabeth both being talented artists and her cousin Jean-Chaudet Elizabeth the portrait and genre painter.   At the age of twenty she married an architect student Michel-Jean-Maximillien Villers.    She was a pupil of Girodet and exhibited in the Salons.  Her first exhibit was of three paintings at the Paris Salon in 1799, and one of them won her 1500 francs.  From then on her portraits attracted much attention.  Her last exhibit at the Paris Salon iwas in 1814, seven years before she died at the age of 47. 

Today’s work of art, which could have been a self-portrait, was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1801.

The Face with the haunting eyes

It is outstanding oil on canvas painting.  The luminous image of this beautiful young woman with her drawing board immediately grabs your attention.  Look at her face.  What an extremely beautiful face.  It has been termed “an eighteenth century Mona Lisa” Look how the folds of her white dress are bathed in the sunlight, which streams through the window with the cracked pain of glass.  Why has she painted a broken pane of glass?  Her gaze is directly towards the viewer and holds one’s attention. As I look at the picture I can almost imagine she is carrying out a portrait and I am the subject matter.