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Mademoiselle Brongniart

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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Alexandrine-Emilie Brongniart (1780–1847) was most likely eight years old when this engaging portrait of her was painted by the celebrated artist Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Wearing an informal knotted scarf on her head, matching white dress and a translucent shawl around her shoulders, Emilie looks directly at us as she searches inside a green silk bag containing balls of wool. Her dark curly hair, which is fashionably long and styled to look natural, frames her pale face, which shows a lively interest in our presence.

There was a close bond between the artist and the Brongniart family. Vigée Le Brun’s daughter Julie was seven months older than Emilie, and the two often played together. The portrait shows the influence of portraits of children by Greuze, but Le Brun avoids the overt sentimentalism that could be a feature of Greuze’s children and presents instead an image of an independent and inquiring young girl.

The National Gallery, London



Mademoiselle Brongniart




Oil on oak


H 65.1 x W 53.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by Sir Bernard Eckstein, 1948

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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