A Portrait of Countess Golovine
Moscow, about 1797/1800
Oil on canvas
Countess Golovine sweeps up her shawl and looks at us with startling candour.
Vigée-Lebrun met and befriended Varvara Nikolaevna Golovine (1766–1821) in Russia in the late 1790s during the artist’s exile from revolutionary France. She described Golovine as a ‘charming woman’ who was a talented musician and artist, and a lover of literature. The spontaneous and informal pose conveys Golovine’s lively intelligence and a sympathetic engagement between the two women. The compact octagonal format and the simplest setting — a diagonal shaft of light — reinforce the portrait’s intimacy.
Purchased 1980 (No. 80.1)