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This 1769 portrait of Marie-Françoise Buron is one of the earliest paintings from the career of French Neo-classicist, Jacques Louis David. He produced a number of portraits of the Buron family in this same year.
The lady here is elegantly dressed, clearly well prepared for this delightful portrait. David always was kind to the women in his paintings, right throughout his career and in this example he portrays a strong and confident woman who still retains her feminine charm. Later portraits would use much simpler arrangements of clothing, but in these early days David would feature elaborate bows, matching head dress and also a little more makeup upon those modelling for him. David made use of friends and family for much of his early work, often seeking to repay them for any support that they gave him as he started out as an artist. He is known to have received some support from some, but also criticism from others.
This painting can now be found in the collection of the Musée National des Beaux-Arts, Algiers. It is a particularly small piece at only 54cm wide by 66cm tall and normally that might suggest that the canvas had actually been cropped down from a larger, more complex piece as found elsewhere in this artist's career. However, because of the early timing of this portrait, it is likely that David was simply working to smaller canvases at this time, whilst building his confidence to attack more ambitious projects later on. The composition also fits perfectly, and so it is highly unlikely that this female portrait would have been joined by additional figures originally. David worked on a number of Buron portraits during the year of 1769, and each of them are single figure portraits such as this.
David is respected both for his portraits and also his history paintings and the political turmoil with which he was deeply entrenched is not now considered damaging to his artisic reputation. He managed somehow to work despite some constraints on his personal life and left behind an impressive oeuvre which competes well against anything from this period in French history. Other names frequently mentioned from around this time include Gericault and Delacroix, the two main French Romanticist artists. They worked in a more expressive way than David, which draw their own support from academic quarters and also the public. Their key works included The Raft of the Medusa, Insane Woman from Theodore Gericault, and from Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People and Barque of Dante, though the Louvre offers a much more comprehensive coverage of their careers than just a few single pieces.