Artworks
Portrait of Mlle. Lange as Danae
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Arty Fact

More about Portrait of Mlle. Lange as Danae

ezuckerman's picture

Contributor

Don’t be fooled - this painting is gorgeous and the sitter is one fine babe, but it’s basically a giant middle finger.

This allegorical portrait was finished in 1799 and marked the beginning of the end of the career of talented artist Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson.

Girodet was a rebellious student of painter Jacques-Louis David, a fair weather painter of politicians, who supported the ultra violent revolutionary Robespierre and then switched allegiances to Napoleon once that whole republic thing didn’t pan out.

This beauty is the byproduct of a terribly embarrassing incident between the painter and sitter, and is actually the second version. The work depicts actress Mademoiselle Lange whose new rich husband had the portrait commissioned. Lange was famed for her beauty and infamous for her long line of male suitors.

Even though the original was in all probability quite technically lovely, Lange believed the portrait was not beautiful enough. After the original painting had been hung in an exhibition in the Louvre and bad mouthed by her friends, Lange requested it be taken down and offered Girodet only half of the commission price originally offered. This public display of rejection would have been very humiliating for the already established artist, so once he took it down, he shredded the crap out if it, neatly wrapped it in paper, and had it couriered to her home. Of course, this got out and ran rampant through the rumor mill of the Parisian art scene, and Girodet got totally dragged. His reputation never did fully recover.

In a 40-day fit of vengeance, this version was painted and submitted by Girodet into the salon in the same frame he had shredded the original painting from. Ya’ll, this painting is straight up mean - it’s worse than a diss track. Every little detail is an eff you to the actress, commenting on events in her life spread throughout Parisian tabloids and, as you can see, there is a lot packed into the frame.

As she looks at the gold coins lovingly, they fall between her legs- a not so subtle comment on her marriage borne of financial convenience. The broken mirror in her hand and fancy peacock feathers represent her vanity and self-obsession, but hey, if I had that rack I’d live naked and stare at myself constantly. Girodet slipped that broken mirror in as a reference to the vanity of not liking that initial portrait. Under the bench she’s sitting on is a gross head licking his lips with a coin covering his eye, who we can identify by the grape leaf crown as Lange’s former lover. The way it is under “Danae” and forgotten is a reference to her rejection of him when he lost his fortune.

To her left, the extremely happy turkey was supposed to be her husband, and even contemporaries agreed on the resemblance. BOOM, roasted. In with the bird theme to her right lays a dead dove, killed by one of the falling coins and collared with the word “fidelity”- obvious enough. The cupid on her right was recognizable as her daughter from a previous relationship, and Girodet has used her- an innocent child- to publicly shame her for having a life before her turkey husband came along!

This is a ruthless painting by a rebellious man trying to exact revenge on a woman he felt had wronged him. Lange was a badass actress who came from nothing and used her talent to operate in a difficult country for poor people. Throughout the years she survived attacks on her character relating to her personal life, the French revolution and subsequent Napoleon years, and raised a daughter she had out of wedlock. In my humble opinion, Girodet can suck it on this one. A man being needlessly cruel to a woman who’s scorned him, groundbreaking.

 

Sources

Sources

  1. Crow, Thomas E. Emulation : David, Drouais, and Girodet in the Art of Revolutionary France. Rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press in Association with the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2006.
  2. Fumaroli, Marc, and Bruno Chenique. Girodet, 1767-1824. Edited by Sylvain Bellenger. Paris: Gallimard, 2006.
  3. "Girodet: France's Romantic Rebel.(Museums Today)." USA Today (Magazine) 135, no. 2736 (2006): 42.
  4. Levitine, George. Girodet-Trioson : An Iconographical Study., 1952.