This great double portrait was painted when the artist, at the peak of his powers, had become the standard-bearer of French Neoclassicism. Lavoisier is known for his pioneering studies of oxygen, gunpowder, and the chemical composition of water. In 1789 he published a treatise on chemistry illustrated by his wife, who is believed to have been David's pupil. For political reasons, Lavoisier was obliged to withdraw the present painting from the 1789 Salon. Despite his service to the revolutionary regime, he was guillotined.
This is one of the grandest portraits of the eighteenth century, painted in 1788 when the thirty-one-year-old David was at the peak of his powers and had become the self-appointed standard-bearer of French Neoclassicism. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier is known today as the founder of modern chemistry, for his pioneering studies of oxygen, gunpowder, and the chemical composition of water. In 1789, his theories were published in the influential Traité elementaire de chimie. The illustrations in this book were prepared by his wife, who is believed to have studied with David. Marie Anne Pierrette Paulze was only thirteen when her father, a fermier-général (tax collector for the royal government), married her to the twenty-eight-year-old Lavoisier. The couple's income and social standing came from Lavoisier's own position of fermier-général, which eventually led to his execution at the guillotine in 1794, during the French Revolution. His widow married the eccentric American inventor Count Rumford in 1804 but soon separated from him; she died in Paris in 1836.
Full-length standing portraits of private citizens are rare in French eighteenth-century painting, though much more frequent in British portraits of landed gentry and nobility. The air of informality and arrested, spontaneous action seems to derive from English portrait models, but the controlling reference, as Edgar Wind determined in 1947, is to the trope of "artist and his muse." Apropos the position of Madame Lavoisier in this painting, Antoine Schnapper (1982) cited Jean-François Ducis's verse, "Pour Lavoisier, soumis à vos lois / Vous remplissez les deux emplois / Et de muse et de secrétaire" (For Lavoisier, subject to your law, you fill two posts, that of muse and of secretary). It is also possible, as Wind suggested, that David used Hogarth's portrait of the actor David Garrick and his wife (Royal Collection, Windsor) as a point of departure. Engravings of English portraits abounded in the studios of French artists at the time, and were consulted by painters as diverse as Prud'hon, Vincent, David, and their various students.
Lavoisier's habit noir, as opposed to the colorful suits of courtiers, was the customary, English-inspired dress of men who owed their rank to a profession or purchased office. Madame Lavoisier's muslin gown is characteristic of fashionable women of her day, neither exaggerated nor excessively modest. Both are dressed formally, and not in déshabille, as was the eighteenth-century convention for artists and scientists at work. In other words, the interruption that provides the pretext for the portrait is as carefully staged as every other aspect of the painting, from the array of instruments that would not necessarily be used together, to the red velvet cloth, inappropriate for messy scientific experiments, to the expensive gilt furniture and the invented, though stately and restrained, architecture. Madame Lavoisier recorded an experiment in her husband's actual laboratory in a drawing made in 1790–91 (private collection), in which she includes herself in a pose that echoes that of her husband in David's painting.
Although the documents concerning the commission have not been found, David's payment of 7,000 livres is recorded in a receipt dated December 16, 1788 (Grimaux 1888 and Brière 1909). This was a huge sum: David had charged Louis XVI only 6,000 livres for The Lictors Returning to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons (Musée du Louvre, Paris). David had planned to include the Lavoisier portrait at the Salon of 1789, but it was withdrawn at the last minute and not exhibited publicly until a hundred years later. Although it has since become one of David's most famous works, and is justifiably considered his finest portrait, it had no immediate impact on the artists of David's generation, nor on the generation of his students.
[2011; adapted from Tinterow and Miller 2005]
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower left): L. David [faciebat] / parisiis anno / 1788
Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Paris (until d. 1794); Mme Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, later Countess Rumford, Paris (1794–d. 1836); her great-niece, comtesse Pierre-Léon Bérard de Chazelles, Paris, and later the Auvergne (1836–1876 [his death] or 1888 [her death]); her son, comte Étienne Bérard de Chazelles, Paris, and château de la Canière, near Aigueperse (by 1888–d. 1923; his estate, 1923–24; sold by his heirs to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, 1924–25; sold to Rockefeller]; John D. Rockefeller Jr., New York (1925–27); Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, later Rockefeller University, New York (1927–77; sold to MMA)
Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition centennale de l'art français (1789–1889)," May–November 1889, no. 234 (lent by M. Étienne de Chazelles).
Paris. Jeu de Paume. "Cent portraits de femmes," April 23–July 1, 1909, no. 57 (lent by M. Étienne de Chazelles).
Paris. Palais des Beaux-Arts. "David et ses élèves," April 7–June 9, 1913, no. 20 (lent by M. Étienne de Chazelles).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 227 (lent by the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York).
Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries. "David: Exposition en l'honneur du deuxième centenaire de sa naissance," June 1–September 30, 1948, no. M.O. 23 (lent by the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research).
Paris. Grand Palais. "De David à Delacroix: La peinture française de 1774 à 1830," November 16, 1974–February 3, 1975, no. 33 (lent by Rockefeller University, New York).
Detroit Institute of Arts. "French Painting 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution," March 5–May 4, 1975, no. 33.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution," June 12–September 7, 1975, no. 33.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Eye of Thomas Jefferson," June 5–September 6, 1976, no. 105 (lent by Rockefeller University).
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Jacques-Louis David, 1748–1825," October 26, 1989–February 12, 1990, no. 84.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
[Charles Etienne Gabriel] Cuvillier. Letter to [Joseph Marie] Vien. August 10, 1789 [published in Nouvelles archives de l'art français 22, series 3, année 1906 (1907), p. 264], imagines that M. Lavoisier would be the first to desire not to have his portrait exhibited [at the salon of 1789].
[Pierre Jean-Baptiste Chaussard]. Le Pausanias français, ou description du salon de 1806. Paris, 1806, pp. 156–57 [reprinted as "Notice historique sur Louis David, peintre, par Chaussard" in Revue universelle des arts 18 (1864), p. 120].
Marie Renée Geneviève Brossard de Beaulieu. Letter to the members of the Institut National. May 9, 1806 [see Ref. Beretta 2001, pp. 67–68], presents an engraving of Lavoisier, stating that she had begun work on it before viewing David's portrait.
Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. J.-L. David. Paris, 1824, p. 43.
A. Th[omé]. Vie de David. Paris, 1826, p. 165, erroneously, as two separate portraits.
A. Mahul. Annuaire nécrologique, ou complément annuel . . . année 1825. Paris, 1826, p. 141, erroneously, as two separate portraits.
P[ierre]. A[lexandre]. Coupin. Essai sur J. L. David, peintre d'histoire . . . Paris, 1827, p. 54.
Charles Blanc. Histoire des peintres français au dix-neuvième siècle. Paris, 1845, vol. 1, p. 209.
Miette de Villars. Mémoires de David, peintre et député à la Convention. Paris, 1850, p. 100.
E[tienne] J[ean] Delécluze. Louis David, son école & son temps. Paris, 1855, p. 137 n. 1.
Jean du Seigneur. "Appendice à la notice de P. Chaussard sur L. David." Revue universelle des arts 18 (1864), p. 366, erroneously, as two separate portraits.
L.-J. [J. L. Jules] David and Jacques Louis David. Notice sur le Marat de Louis David suivie de la liste de ses tableaux dressée par lui-même. Paris, 1867, p. 34, no. 17.
[Pierre] Truchot. Les instruments de Lavoisier: Relation d'une visite à La Canière (Puy-de-Dôme), où se trouvent réunis les appareils ayant servi à Lavoisier. Paris, 1879, pp. 1–4, 25 [reprinted from "Annales de chimie et de physique," 5e sér., 18 (1879)], in addition to Lavoisier's scientific instruments at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, describes those still belonging to the family.
J. L. Jules David. Le peintre Louis David, 1748–1825. Vol. 1, Souvenirs & documents inédits. Paris, 1880, pp. 53, 637.
Adrien Delahante. Une famille de finance au XVIIIe siècle. Vol. 2, 2nd ed. Paris, 1881, pp. 547–48, describes the annual visits he made as a boy to the home of Mme de Rumfort, where he saw this portrait.
J. L. Jules David. Le peintre Louis David, 1748–1825. Vol. 2, Suite d'eaux-fortes d'après ses oeuvres gravées par J. L. Jules David, son petit-fils. Paris, 1882, ill. (David etching), lists it under 1788, giving the medium and dimensions.
Édouard Grimaux. Lavoisier, 1743–1794. Paris, 1888, pp. VI, 364–65, ill. (frontispiece, Lemercier heliogravure), publishes the receipt for this painting signed by David acknowledging Lavoisier's payment of 7,000 livres on December 16, 1788; based upon documentation made available by the family, provides biographies of the couple, claiming that Madame Lavoisier studied painting with David.
Léon Rosenthal. Louis David. Paris, , p. 165, erroneously dates it 1787.
Charles Saunier. Louis David. Paris, 1904, p. 124, ill. p. 17
Prosper Dorbec. "David portraitiste." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 37 (1907), pp. 310–11, 321 n. 1, ill., observes that David here imitates Vigée Le Brun, in that his desire to please is transparent; [erroneously?] as in the Musée du Mans.
G. Brière. "Catalogue critique des œuvres d'artistes français réunies à l'exposition de cent portraits de femmes du XVIIIe siècle." Bulletin de la société de l'histoire de l'art français (1909), pp. 122–24, no. 57, reproduces David's receipt.
Léon Rosenthal. "L'exposition de David et ses élèves au Petit Palais." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 33 (May 1913), p. 342.
Charles Saunier. "David et son école au palais des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris (Petit Palais)." Gazette des beaux-arts, ser. 4, 9 (May 1913), p. 376 [misnumbered 276].
Albert Dreyfus. "Jacques Louis David und Seine Schule." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 24 (1913), p. 280, ill. p. 278.
Camille Gronkowski. "'David et ses élèves' at the Petit Palais—I." Burlington Magazine 23 (May 1913), p. 78.
Gustav Pauli. "David im Petit Palais." Kunst und Künstler 11 (August 1913), pp. 544, 546, comments on the portrait's English appearance, mentioning Romney.
Lucien-André Lichy. "David et ses élèves au Petit Palais." Les Amis de Paris no. 21 (1913), p. 578, ill.
G. Capon. Le portrait de M. et Mme Lavoisier par David. Paris, 1924, pp. 1–4, ill. [Wildenstein brochure; English ed., New York, 1924, pp. 1–8, ill.].
Georges Grappe. "La psychologie de David." L'art vivant 1 (December 15, 1925), ill. p. 29.
Graham Lusk. "Mementoes of Lavoisier: Notes on a Trip to Château de la Canière." Journal of the American Medical Association 85 (October 17, 1925), p. 1247.
W. R. Valentiner. Jacques Louis David and the French Revolution. New York, 1929, fig. 13.
Richard Cantinelli. Jacques-Louis David, 1748–1825. Paris, 1930, p. 104, no. 55, pl. 19, as in the MMA [see Notes].
D. S. MacColl. "Jacques-Louis David and the Ducreux Family." Burlington Magazine 72 (June 1938), p. 264, pl. IIA.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "383 Masterpieces of Art." Art News (The 1940 Annual) 38 (May 25, 1940), ill. p. 37.
Klaus Holma. David, son evolution et son style. Paris, 1940, pp. 53, 118 n. 58, p. 126, no. 61, pl. 17, compares it with David's "Paris and Helen" (Musée du Louvre, Paris), as two works issuing from the same thought; [erroneously] as in the MMA.
Edgar Wind. "The Sources of David's 'Horaces'." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 4 (1940–41), pp. 136–38, pl. 32C, finds it probable that David worked on this painting and "Paris and Helen" simultaneously; that "they were associated in his imagination, and that the theme of each picture is 'parodied' (in the musical sense of the word) by the other"; sees this portrait as a type of the author and his muse, deriving from English models, particularly from Hogarth's portrait of Garrick and His Wife (Windsor Castle), which was known on the continent through engravings.
John Shapley. "More Masters at the Fair." Parnassus 12 (May 1940), ill. p. 10.
Jacques Maret. David. Monaco, 1943, p. 117, no. 38, pl. 38.
Helen Rosenau. The Painter Jacques-Louis David. London, 1948, p. 26, pl. 4, fig. 1.
David Lloyd Dowd. Pageant-Master of the Republic: Jacques-Louis David and the French Revolution. Lincoln, Neb., 1948, p. 19.
Douglas Cooper. "Jacques-Louis David: A Bi-Centenary Exhibition." Burlington Magazine 90 (October 1948), p. 278, remarks upon the intensity and individuality of his portraits.
Philippe Huisman. "Au musée de l'Orangerie: J.-L. David, 1748–1825." Arts, beaux-arts, littérature, spectacles (June 25, 1948), ill. p. p8.
Douglas Cooper. "Review of David 1948." Burlington Magazine 91 (February 1949), p. 57.
Douglas McKie. Antoine Lavoisier: Scientist, Economist, Social Reformer. New York, 1952, pp. 95, 294–95, ill. (frontispiece).
Denis I. Duveen. "Madame Lavoisier 1758–1836." Chymia: Annual Studies in the History of Chemistry 4 (1953), pp. 17, 27, mentions this portrait in discussing Madame Lavoisier's life.
Louis Hautecœur. Louis David. Paris, 1954, pp. 105, 287, 305.
Denis I. Duveen and Herbert S. Klickstein. A Bibliography of the Works of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. London, 1954, pp. 158, 378, 462.
Jack Lindsay. Death of the Hero: French Painting from David to Delacroix. London, 1960, p. 60.
"Homage by Masterpiece." Art News 60 (April 1961), pp. 29–30, ill.
Frederick Antal. Hogarth and His Place in European Art. London, 1962, pp. 199–200, pl. 129a, mentions this portrait as suggested to David by Hogarth's "Garrick and His Wife".
Lucien Scheler. Lavoisier. Paris, 1964, p. 150.
Alvar González-Palacios. David (Maestri del Colore). no. 161, Milan, 1966, ill. in index of illustrations and on cover (color).
Hugh Honour. Neo-classicism. Baltimore, 1968, pp. 72, 198, no. 28, fig. 28, [erroneously] states that this is the David painting "encore loin d'être achevé" mentioned by Cuvillier in 1789.
Frederick Cummings. "Folly and Mutability in Two Romantic Paintings: 'The Alchemist' and 'Democritus' by Joseph Wright." Art Quarterly 33, no. 3 (1970), p. 256, fig. 8, notes that the bell jar is more developed than the one in the engraving of Joseph Priestly (fig. 7).
Robert L. Herbert. David, Voltaire, 'Brutus' and the French Revolution: An Essay in Art and Politics. New York, 1972, pp. 58–59, 125, 137 nn. 44, 47, pl. 29.
Michael Levey inArt and Architecture of the Eighteenth Century in France. Harmondsworth, England, 1972, pp. 124, 193, 195, pl. 199, as probably commissioned through Madame Lavoisier.
Michel Laclotte inThe Age of Neo-Classicism. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1972, p. lxx.
René Verbraeken. Jacques-Louis David jugé par ses contemporains et par la postérité. Paris, 1973, pp. 14, 28, 30, 32, 147, 245, pl. 22.
Daniel Wildenstein and Guy Wildenstein. Documents complémentaires au catalogue de l'oeuvre de Louis David. Paris, 1973, p. 27, no. 205, p. 209, no. 1810, p. 226, no. 1938 (17).
Werner Hofmann. "Poesie und Prosa: Rangfragen in der Neueren Kunst." Jahrbuch der Hamburger Kunstsammlungen 18 (1973), p. 192, fig. 13.
Joachim Gaus. "Ingenium und ars—das Ehepaarbildnis Lavoisier von David und die Ikonographie der Museninspiration." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 36 (1974), pp. 199–228, ill. p. 201.
Pierre Rosenberg. "Expositions: Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, De David à Delacroix, La peinture française de 1774 à 1830." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 24 (1974), p. 443, ill. p. 445.
Charles McCorquodale. "From David to Delacroix." Art International 19 (June 15, 1975), pp. 24–25, ill., mentions a parallel in Louis Michel van Loo.
Antoine Schnapper et al. inFrench Painting, 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1975, p. 369, no. 33, pl. 87 [French ed., "De David à Delacroix: La peinture française de 1774 à 1830," pp. 368–69, no. 33, pl. 43].
Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée inThe Eye of Thomas Jefferson. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1976, pp. 59, 359, no. 105, ill.
Malcolm N. Carter. "What Do Museum Directors and Curators Go to See in New York?" Art News 75 (November 1976), pp. 80–82, ill.
Lydie Huyghe in René Huyghe. La Relève de l'imaginaire. La Peinture française au XIXe siècle: Réalisme, romantisme. Paris, 1976, pp. 446–47, fig. 35 (overall), colorpl. 3 (detail).
Denys Sutton inParis—New York: A Continuing Romance. Exh. cat., Wildenstein. New York, 1977, pp. 34–35, ill.
Thomas B. Hess. "David's Plot." New York Magazine (May 9, 1977), pp. 101–3, ill. (color).
Henri Michel. Images des sciences: Les anciens instruments scientifiques vus par les artistes de leur temps. Rhode-St.-Genèse, Belgium, 1977, p. 77, ill.
H(enry). R. H(ope). "Exhibitions." Art Journal 37 (1977), p. 66.
James Parker. "The French Eighteenth-Century Rooms in the Newly Re-opened Wrightsman Galleries." Apollo 106 (November 1977), p. 377, ill. on cover (color).
Denys Sutton. "Editorial: In the French Taste." Apollo 106 (November 1977), ill. on cover (color) and p. 331 (in the Wrightsman Galleries).
George Levitine. Girodet-Trioson: An Iconographical Study. PhD diss., Harvard University. New York, 1978, pp. 313–14, fig. 61, relates the theme to Fragonard's "Inspiration" (Musée du Louvre, Paris).
Dean Walker inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1975–1979. New York, 1979, pp. 53–54, ill. (color).
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 388–89, fig. 700 (color).
Anita Brookner. Jacques-Louis David. New York, 1980, pp. 88, 90, 105, 132–33, fig. 46.
Philip Conisbee. Painting in Eighteenth-Century France. Oxford, 1981, p. 134, fig. 110.
Antoine Schnapper. David. English ed. New York, 1982, pp. 50, 84, 92, colorpl. 40 [French ed., "David, témoin de son temps," Fribourg, Switzerland, 1980].
David R. Smith. "Rembrandt's Early Double Portraits and the Dutch Conversation Piece." Art Bulletin 64 (June 1982), p. 279, fig. 37, as influenced by Rembrandt's "Shipbuilder and His Wife" (fig. 19).
Michael Wilson. "A New Acquisition for the National Gallery: David's Portrait of Jacobus Blauw." Burlington Magazine 126 (November 1984), p. 698.
Luc de Nanteuil. Jacques-Louis David. New York, 1985, pp. 23, 56, 68, 96, colorpl. 13.
Thomas E. Crow. Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris. New Haven, 1985, p. 231, ill., as "a tribute not to a patron but to an equal".
Antoine Schnapper in1770–1830: Autour du Néo-Classicisme en Belgique. Ed. Denis Coekelberghs and Pierre Loze. Exh. cat., Musée Communal des Beaux-Arts d'Ixelles. [Brussels], 1985, p. 32.
Elmar Stolpe. Klassizismus und Krieg: Über den Historienmaler Jacques-Louis David. Frankfurt, 1985, pp. 184–90, fig. 53.
Frederick Lawrence Holmes. Lavoisier and the Chemistry of Life: An Exploration of Scientific Creativity. Madison, 1985, ill. (detail, frontispiece).
Simon Schama. "The Domestication of Majesty: Royal Family Portraiture, 1500–1850." Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17 (Summer 1986), p. 180.
Yvonne Korshak. "'Paris and Helen' by Jacques Louis David: Choice and Judgment on the Eve of the French Revolution." Art Bulletin 69 (March 1987), p. 114 n. 46.
Albert Boime. A Social History of Modern Art. Vol. 1, Art in an Age of Revolution, 1750–1800. Chicago, 1987, pp. 411, 413–17, fig. 5.5, compares David's method to Lavoisier's, suggesting that both "acquired reputations for their capacity for sustained work, painstaking regard for detail and logical thought".
Jean-Jacques Lévêque. L'art et la Révolution française, 1789–1804. Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 1987, pp. 140, 143, ill. (color).
John Leighton. Jacques-Louis David, 'Portrait of Jacobus Blauw'. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 1987, pp. 5–6, fig. 3.
Donna Marie Hunter. "Second Nature: Portraits by J.-L. David, 1769–1792." PhD diss., Harvard University, 1988, pp. 323–52, 357, 403–04 nn. 21–22, p. 405 n. 27, p. 407 n. 37, p. 408 n. 39, p. 409 n. 43, p. 410 n. 50, pl. 70, points out that Lavoisier wears the semi-official "habit noir," that the format and size suggest the tradition of state portraiture; and notes that the equipment does not appear to be the apparatus for a single experiment.
Philippe Bordes. David. Paris, , colorpl. 48.
Régis Michel. David: L'art et le politique. Paris, 1988, pp. 48–49, 170, ill. in color (overall and detail).
Carter Ratcliffe. Komar and Melamid. New York, 1988, p. 130.
Denys Sutton inTreasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 1989, p. 21, fig. 9.
Gilles Néret. David: La terreur et la vertu. Paris, 1989, ill. p. 34 (color).
Bernard Noël. David. Paris, 1989, pp. 26–27, ill. in color (overall and detail).
Jean-Jacques Lévêque. La vie et l'oeuvre de Jacques-Louis David. Paris, 1989, p. 64, ill. (color).
Warren Roberts. Jacques-Louis David, Revolutionary Artist: Art, Politics, and the French Revolution. Chapel Hill, 1989, pp. 43–45, fig. 11.
Alan Wintermute in1789: French Art During the Revolution. Ed. Alan Wintermute. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1989, pp. 112, 257.
Carol S. Eliel in1789: French Art During the Revolution. Ed. Alan Wintermute. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1989, pp. 57, 61 n. 54, fig. 12, sees the influence of Northern prototypes.
Madeleine Pinault inLa Révolution française et l'Europe, 1789–1799. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1989, p. 201.
Claudine Billoux. Lavoisier: Ses collaborateurs et la révoluion chimique. Exh. cat., École Polytechnique. Palaiseau, 1989, p. 1, no. 2, ill. on cover (color).
Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. rev., enl. ed. New York, 1989, p. 390.
Simon Schama. Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. New York, 1989, p. 77, fig. 24.
Antoine Schnapper inJacques-Louis David, 1748–1825. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre, Département des Peintures and Musée National du Château, Versailles. Paris, 1989, pp. 19–20, 192–94, 573, no. 84, ill. (color), describes a letter of February 20, 1788, to Mme Lavoisier from Hassenfratz, Lavoisier's collaborator, suggesting ideas for her project of celebrating her husband through a work of art; suggests that the instruments depicted here allude to his great experiments of 1783–85 involving the analysis and synthesis of water.
W. A. Smeaton. "Monsieur and Madame Lavoisier in 1789: The Chemical Revolution and the French Revolution." Ambix: The Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry 36 (March 1989), pp. 3–4, fig. 1.
Philippe Bordes. "Paris and Versailles: David." Burlington Magazine 132 (February 1990), p. 155, fig. 103.
Allen Kurzweil. "Laboratory of the Soul." Art and Antiques 7 (November 1990), pp. 94, 125, ill. in color.
Colin Bailey. "David in Paris: Classicism's Most Compelling Defender." Art International 11 (Summer 1990), pp. 98–99, ill. in color, sees David as challenging Reynolds and Gainsborough.
Fiona Biddulph. "Spotlight on David." Museums Journal (January 1990), p. 25, ill. (in color).
Barbara Scott. "Letter from Paris: David's Portraits." Apollo 131 (February 1990), pp. 115–16, ill.
David Wisner. "Les portraits de femmes de J.-L. David pendant la Révolution française." Les femmes et la Révolution française. Vol. 2, Toulouse, 1990, pp. 177–78, unnumbered pl.
Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. Ed. Nicholas H. J. Hall. New York, 1992, p. 22.
Colin B. Bailey inThe Loves of the Gods: Mythological Painting from Watteau to David. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. New York, 1992, p. 509.
Luc de Nanteuil. "Un grand mécène: Jayne Wrightsman." Connaissance des arts 490 (December 1992), pp. 34, 38, fig. 2 (color).
Arthur Donovan. Antoine Lavoisier: Science, Administration, and Revolution. Oxford, 1993, p. 239, fig. 4.
Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent. Lavoisier: Mémoires d'une révolution. Paris, 1993, p. 90, ill. opp. p. 241.
Colin Bailey. "'Les grands, les cordons bleus': Les clients de David avant la Révolution." David contre David. Ed. Régis Michel. Paris, 1993, vol. 1, p. 145.
Antoine Schnapper. "David et l'argent." David contre David. Ed. Régis Michel. Paris, 1993, vol. 2, p. 915.
Jean-Claude Lebensztejn. "Histoires belges." David contre David. Ed. Régis Michel. Paris, 1993, vol. 2, p. 1017.
Christopher Lloyd. The Queen's Pictures: Old Masters from the Royal Collection. [London], 1994, p. 74, cites it in relation to Hogarth's portrait of David Garrick and his wife, from about 1757 (Royal Collection), as examples of genius inspired by a muse; mentions earlier precedents.
Jean-Pierre Poirier and Bruno Jacomy. "Le couple Lavoisier sous l'œil de David." Musée des Arts et Métiers: La revue no. 6 (March 1994), pp. 26–29, ill. (overall and details).
Madeleine Pinault Sørensen. "Madame Lavoisier, dessinatrice et peintre." Musée des Arts et Métiers: La revue no. 6 (March 1994), pp. 23–25.
Mary Vidal. "David Among the Moderns: Art, Science, and the Lavoisiers." Journal of the History of Ideas 56 (October 1995), pp. 595–623, ill.
, analyzes the portrait in terms of the new social ideals, and views it as a "celebration of aesthetic and scientific invention, the 'wedding' of art and science in service to society"; sees as an intentional pair to the portrait David's "The Loves of Paris and Helen," also painted in 1788 and exhibited at the Salon of that year—as he had planned to do with the Lavoisier portrait.
Michael Kimmelman. "At the Met with Roy Lichtenstein: Disciple of Color and Line, Master of Irony." New York Times (March 31, 1995), p. C27.
Diana Barkan. "Louis Médard; Henri Tachoire. Histoire de la thermochemie: Prélude a la thermodynamique chimique, Provence, 1994." Isis 87 (March 1996), p. 147.
Jean-Pierre Poirier. Lavoisier: Chemist, Biologist, Economist. Philadelphia, 1996, pp. 1–3, 131, 244, 403, 410, 464 nn. 54, 72, fig. 1.
Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames. London, 1996, p. 451 n. 7a.
Johanna Hecht. "A Philosophe's Odyssey: How Houdon's Bust of Condorcet Made Its Way to Philadelphia." Franklin and Condorcet: Two Portraits from the American Philosophical Society. Philadelphia, 1997, p. 16, fig. 9 (detail).
Eberhard Roters. Malerei des 19. Jahrhunderts: Themen und Motive. Cologne, 1998, vol. 1, pp. 98–101, 109–10 nn. 2–7, ill.
Sophie Monneret. David et le néoclassicisme. Paris, 1998, pp. 78–79, ill. (color).
Valerie L. Hillings. "Komar and Melamid's Dialogue with (Art) History." Art Journal 58 (Winter 1999), p. 54.
Warren Roberts. Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Louis Prieur: Revolutionary Artists. Albany, 2000, pp. 259, 318, 343 n. 34, fig. 96.
Thomas E. Crow. "Ingres and David." Apollo 153 (June 2001), p. 12, fig. 3 (color).
Marco Beretta. Imaging a Career in Science: The Iconography of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. Canton, Mass., 2001, pp. viii, xiii, xiv, 2, 6–7, 9, 12–13, 16, 21, 25–28, 30–31, 34–37, 39–42, 64, 67–68, 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 94, 100, 103, 115, pl. 1 (color), figs. 3, 4(a), 5(a), 6(a), 7 (details).
Roald Hoffmann. "Mme. Lavoisier." American Scientist 90 (January–February 2002), p. 23.
Jean-Pierre Poirier. Histoire des femmes de science en France du Moyen Age à la Révolution. Paris, 2002, pp. 295–96 n. 2.
Mary Vidal in "The 'Other Atelier': Jacques-Louis David's Female Students." Women, Art and the Politics of Identity in Eighteenth-Century Europe. Ed. Melissa Hyde and Jennifer Milam. Aldershot, England, 2003, p. 247.
Jean-Pierre Poirier. La science et l'amour: Madame Lavoisier. Paris, 2004, pp. 107–9, 122, 163, 231.
Philippe Bordes. Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. New Haven, 2005, pp. 127, 135, 286.
Gary Tinterow and Asher Ethan Miller inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 255–62, no. 70, ill. (color).
Joseph Baillio et al. The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, , pp. 61, 74, no. 69, ill.
Uwe Fleckner inMonet und "Camille": Frauenportraits im Impressionismus. Ed. Dorothee Hansen and Wulf Herzogenrath. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bremen. Munich, 2005, p. 45, ill.
Keiko Kawashima. "Madame Lavoisier: The Participation of a Salonière in the Chemical Revolution." Lavoisier in Perspective. Ed. Marco Beretta. Munich, 2005, pp. 79, 90, 93, fig. 1.
Pierre Rosenberg. Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. Milan, 2006, pp. 17, 156–57, 229, ill. (color).
Sébastien Allard inCitizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760–1830. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2007, p. 311 [French ed., "Portraits publics, portraits privés, 1770–1830," Paris, 2006, p. 344].
Horton A. Johnson. "Revolutionary Instruments: Lavoisier's Tools as Objets d'Art." Chemical Heritage 26 (Spring 2008), pp. 31–35, ill. pp. 30, 32–34 (color, overall and details), discusses the scientific instruments in terms of their visual interest, their mechanisms, and their significance for specific experiments.
Marie-Odile van Caeneghem. "Les Lavoisier par Jacques Louis David: Un tableau prémonitoire." Sparsae, hors série, no 4. (2009), pp. 71–81, ill. in color (on front cover and p. 75).
Jacques Corrocher. "Marie Anne Lavoisier (1758–1836): Une femme de conviction au destin multiple." Sparsae, hors série, no. 4 (2009), p. 63 n. 12, p. 68.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. "François Gérard: Portraiture, Scandal, and the Art of Power in Napoleonic France." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 71 (Summer 2013), p. 31, fig. 31 (color).
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. New Haven, 2015, p. 199, fig. 148 (color).
Paul Lang inÉlisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Ed. Joseph Baillio and Xavier Salmon. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Galeries nationales. Paris, 2015, p. 163, under no. 51.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, pp. 426, 428, no. 309, ill. pp. 300–301, 323, 426 (color, overall and detail).
The frame is from Paris and dates to about 1775–80 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–4). This extremely high-quality Louis XVI frame is entirely made of oak. Its mitred corners, crossetted at the top, are secured with metal bolts allowing the large-scale frame to be dismantled for transport. The cavetto at the sight edge rises to running carved ornament of husk and double pearl on stick within a flat fillet. The perimeter of the flat frieze is carved in lotus leaf with acanthus corners. A small cavetto then rises to the twisted acanthus leaf on stick carved ornament which runs before a wider flat fillet at the top edge. Straight sides fall back to an elegant step at the back edge. The cartouche at the crest secures bunches of palm fronds behind it. Its face is carved with three fleurs-de-lis encircled by a chain depicting royal and military motifs and incorporating the letter “H”. It also secures a lush festoon of flowers including roses, daisies, lilacs, jonquils, marigolds, and primroses which sweeps to each side, dropping beneath a floral boss. The cartouche at the base is ornamented with floral sprays and ribbon and flanked by acanthus leaf carving. The inscription has been altered for this painting. The original matte and burnished water gilding on ochre and red bole is worn but retains its superbly recut gesso ground. Frames of this grandeur have been attributed to the Royal frame maker Francois Charles Buteux (1732–1788). The original frame for this painting remains in France and was not included in this acquisition.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
This portrait was lent to the Metropolitan Museum by John D. Rockefeller from 1927 until 1929. Dorothy Miller (see memo in archive file) surmises that Rockefeller may have had it housed in the MMA while awaiting the completion of his library at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, now Rockefeller University.
Portraits of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier abound. Artists have paid homage to the scientist in paintings, sculpture, medals, prints, drawings, a commemorative stamp, and even a fresco at the Sorbonne. Many bust-length portraits were based on The Met’s painting by Jacques Louis David. Several illustrations by Madame Lavoisier show the couple in their laboratory. For all of this material, see Marco Baretta, Imaging a Career in Science: The Iconography of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (2001).