barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


Portrait of Countess Golovina

Moscow, about 1797/1800
Oil on canvas

83.5 x 66.7 cm


Countess Golovine sweeps up her shawl and looks at us with startling candour.

Vigée-Lebrun met and befriended Varvara Nikolaevna Golovina (1766–1821) in Russia in the late 1790s during the artist’s exile from revolutionary France. She described Golovina as a ‘charming woman’ who was a talented musician and artist, and a lover of literature. The spontaneous and informal pose conveys Golovina’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)

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