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. Lavoisier was involved in a political scandal which led him 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 (1788–d. 1794); Mme Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, later Countess Rumford, Paris (1794–d. 1836); her great-niece, comtesse Pierre-Léon Bérard de Chazelles (Jeanne-Marie-Laure-Hélène-Gabrielle Ramey de Sugny), 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. Palais de la Découverte. "Exposition organisée à l'occasion du IIe centenaire de Lavoisier," 1943–44, no catalogue? [see Schnapper 1989].
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.
[C.-E.-G.] 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], observes that in his opinion Lavoisier would be among the first not to wish to have his portrait exhibited [at the salon of 1789].
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 to the members of the Institut National stating that she had begun work on it before viewing David's portrait of the Lavoisiers.
[P. Chaussard]. Le Pausanias français, ou description du salon de 1806. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1806]. Paris, 1808, pp. 156–57 [reprinted as "Notice historique sur Louis David, peintre" in Revue universelle des arts 18 (1864), p. 120].
Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. J.-L. David. Paris, 1824, p. 43.
A. Th[omé de Gamond]. Vie de David. Paris, 1826, p. 165, erroneously mentions this as two separate portraits.
A. Mahul. Annuaire nécrologique, ou complément annuel . . . année 1825. Paris, 1826, p. 141, erroneously mentions this 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. J. 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 lists this double portrait as two separate portraits.
J. L. Jules 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 Carrière (Puy-de-Dôme) où se trouvent réunis les appareils ayant servi à Lavoisier. Paris, 1879, pp. 1, 3–4, [reprinted in part from "Annales de chimie et de physique," date?; see Ref. Schnapper 1989].
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 visits he made as a boy to the home of Mme de Rumfort [sic for Rumford, Mme Lavoisier's name from a later marriage], where he saw this portrait; contrasts Mme Lavoisier's looks in the painting to her later loss of beauty.
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. (etching), lists it in unpaginated chronological table, giving its medium, date and dimensions.
Édouard Grimaux. Lavoisier, 1743–1794. Paris, 1888, pp. VI, 364–65, ill. (frontispiece, Lemercier's heliogravure), observes that there exists for this painting a receipt signed by David acknowledging Lavoisier's payment of 7,000 livres for the picture on December 16, 1788.
Léon Rosenthal. Louis David. Paris, , p. 165, as in the Chazelles collection; erroneously dates it 1787.
Charles Saunier. Louis David. Paris, 1904, p. 124, ill. p. 17
, as belonging to M. de Chazelles.
Prosper Dorbec. "David portraitiste." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 37 (1907), pp. 310–11, 321 n. 1, ill., observes that David imitates the manner of Vigée Le Brun in this portrait and his desire to please his wordly sitters is transparent; [erroneously?] as in the Musée du Mans.
G. Brière. "Catalogue critique des oeuvres 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, reproduce David's receipt of payment for the portrait which, like the painting itself, is in the possession of Étienne de Chazelles.
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, 4th ser., 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, observing that at first glance one might think of Romney, but on second one would realize the superiority of David's work.
G. Capon. Le portrait de M. et Mme Lavoisier par David. [Paris], , pp. 1–4, ill. [Dealer's brochure made for Wildenstein; English ed., New York, 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, erroneously as in the MMA [see Notes].
D. S. MacColl. "Jacques-Louis David and the Ducreux Family." Burlington Magazine 72 (June 1938), pp. 264, 269–70, pl. IIA, compares it with a portrait of Madame de Montgiraud (née Rose Ducreux), then in the collection of the late Baron d'Erlanger [the picture is now identified as a self-portrait by Ducreux, present whereabouts unknown].
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "383 Masterpieces of Art." Art News, (The 1940 Annual), 38 (May 25, 1940), 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), observing that they appear to be 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, observes that it is probable that David worked on this painting and his "Paris and Helen" simultaneously, and that "what appears certain is 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, "an author and his muse," deriving from English models, particularly from Hogarth's portrait of Garrick and His Wife (Windsor Castle), 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 n. 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.
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. "The Literature of Art." 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 a lengthy discussion of Madame Lavoisier's life and her contribution to her husband's work.
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, p. 158.
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 probably inspired by Hogarth's "Garrick and His Wife".
Lucien Scheler. Lavoisier. Paris, 1964, p. 150.
Alvar González-Palacios. David (I 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, fig. 28, erroneously states that this portrait is the "tableau de M. David encore loin d'être achevé" mentioned in Cuvillier's letter to Vien [see Ref. 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, discusses the mechanism of the bell jar depicted in this painting, "with an intake valve for gases, an ejection valve for liquids, and a universal swivel for altering the position of the bell"; notes that the bell jar shown here is more developed than one that appears in an engraving of Joseph Priestly, the English chemist.
Robert L. Herbert. David, Voltaire, 'Brutus' and the French Revolution: An Essay in Art and Politics. New York, 1972, pp. 58–59, 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.
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.
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), discusses the picture, recently acquired by the Museum.
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 situ).
George Levitine. Girodet-Trioson: An Iconographical Study. PhD diss., Harvard University. New York, 1978, pp. 313–14, fig. 61, relates the theme of this portrait 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), suggests that the manuscript on which Lavoisier writes may be the "Traité élémentaire de chimie" (1789), on which he was known to have been working in 1788, and which was illustrated by Mme Lavoisier.
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, analyzing David's portrait of the Dutch diplomat M. Meyer, notes the "hand and pen motif" which runs through the portraits of Dr. Leroy, Marat, M. Blauw and the Lavoisiers.
Philip Conisbee. Painting in Eighteenth-Century France. Oxford, 1981, p. 134, fig. 110.
Antoine Schnapper. David. English ed. [French ed. 1980]. New York, 1982, pp. 84, 92, colorpl. 40, [French ed., "David, témoins 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" (Royal Collection, London).
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., observes that David's "portrait of the wealthy, polished, and immensely gifted Lavoisier is 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. 187–89.
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, and the painter's meticulous re-creation of the scientific instruments used to measure gases demonstrates his own empirical outlook".
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, notes that "Lavoisier is dressed in the 'habit noir' . . . , the costume of . . . men who owed their rank and dignity to an office that they had purchased, and perhaps also discharged" and that the format and size of the painting, as well as certain features like the pilasters in the background and the red velvet cloth on the table suggest the tradition of state portraiture--a clear indication of the Lavoisiers' self-esteem; adds that this portrait was commissioned at the time Lavoisier was preparing for publication his "Traité élémentaire de chimie" and actively promoting the journal "Annales de Chimie," the first issue of which was published in 1789; observes that the equipment on the table does not appear to be "the apparatus needed for conducting a single experiment, but all the pieces were basic to work in 'chimie pneumatique,' . . . in particular the 'ballon,' the pump and the gazometer [which were] used in synthesizing water".
Philippe Bordes. David. Paris, , colorpl. 48/49.
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, suggests that Mme Lavoisier's wistful expression may be due to a sense of loss over giving up her artistic studies, and observes that "it would not be fanciful . . . to see an element of sympathy in the painting, compassion on the part of the artist toward the former student".
Carol S. Eliel in1789: French Art During the Revolution. Ed. Alan Wintermute. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1989, pp. 57, 61 n. 54, pp. 112, 257, fig. 12, sees the influence of Metsu, Dou, Terborch, and other Northern prototypes in this portrait.
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), mentions a letter of February 20, 1788 to Mme Lavoisier from Hassenfratz, Lavoisier's principal collaborator, suggesting to her three ideas for her project of celebrating her husband through a work of art; notes that Lavoisier's scientific instruments are preserved in the Conservatorie National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, and suggests that the instruments depicted here allude to his great experiments of 1783–85 involving the analysis and synthesis of water.
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, as "the consummate image of the Enlightenment" in which "David seems to be challenging both 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, 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, mentions this picture in relation to Hogarth's portrait of David Garrick and his wife from about 1757 (Royal Collection), observing that both are examples of the theme of a genius inspired by a muse; mentions earlier precedents for this theme in painting.
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), p. 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 Enlightenment philosophy and the new social ideals of the period, 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 this portrait David's "The Loves of Paris and Helen" (Louvre, Paris), also painted in 1788; notes that the latter was exhibited at the Salon of that year—as David had planned to do with the Lavoisier portrait had it not become unwise for political reasons; comments that both works "celebrate the fullness of love by merging its sexual, psychological, and social aspects" and that in both "love acts as a stimulus for creative invention"; observes that the inclusion of Marie's portfolio, and her position alongside her husband at his work table "should be evaluated within the context of his [David's] support of women painters".
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, ill. fig. 1, perceives a "visibly cold attitude" in the portrayal of Lavoisier and his wife, speculating on its cause as either "a secret dissension" between the couple, or a "gratuitously roguish" composition on the part of David; cites Refs. Du Pont 1799 and Delahante 1880.
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., describes Lavoisier as a revolutionary scientist and a conservative "man of the world," and that David sought to incorporate both of these roles into his depiction.
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), studies in detail the laboratory instruments depicted in this picture and identifies their real-life analogues in the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris; claims that "the instruments in the portrait are arranged in chronological order and intend to show the scientific itinerary that led Lavoisier to discover the chemical role of air and to analyze the properties of the various gases".
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), note that although this is one of David's most famous works "it had no immediate impact on the artists of David's generation, nor on the generation of his students".
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), notes that the scientific instruments depicted were created by Nicolas Fortin, "Lavoisier's instrument maker since 1783"; discusses them in terms of their visual interest, their mechanism, and their significance for specific experiments, in particular the synthesis of water from hydrogen and oxygen, and the breakdown of water into hydrogen and oxygen.
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), imagines that David, a son of the petite bourgeoisie, must have felt some resentment towards Lavoisier, a symbol of established power who had amassed a fortune as a tax collector; interprets the still life elements in this portrait as anticipating the future vulnerability of the couple; notes that the goose feathers are symbols of fragility, the glassware suggests the ephemeral nature of earthly power, and sees the spherical flask resting on the floor as comparable to the celestial globe, and thus a symbol of melancholy and the bitter taste of solitude.
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).
French Louis XVI fronton frame (see Mitchell and Roberts 1996).
The picture was engraved by Martini, Massard père, Landon, and Jules David (1882); there are heliogravures by G. Profit and Lemercier. Schnapper (1989) notes that of the numerous derivations from the painting, most copy only the bust of Lavoisier in an oval format (for a list, see G. Duplessis and P.-A. Lemoisne, "Catalogue de la collection des portraits français et étrangers conservée au Département des Estampes de la Bibliothèque Nationale," vol. 6, Paris, 1907, p. 87). The prototype may be a portrait by Garneray after David, engraved by P. M. Alix (Salon of 1793, no. 3001). An oval portrait of this type was sold at the Hôtel Drouot, March 7, 1956, no. 106. Schnapper also mentions a copy (presumably painted) in a private collection.
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.