Getty Acquires Painting by Sophie Fremiet

Tuesday, April 9, 2024
Getty Acquires Painting by Sophie Fremiet

The J. Paul Getty Museum has acquired Portrait of a Woman, a neoclassical-era portrait painting by French artist Sophie Fremiet. The painting will go on view at the Getty Center in the South Pavilion.

An alert young woman seated in a lavish interior gazes directly at the viewer with a faint smile, her face framed by tight ringlets of dark hair and by a matching pearl headband and necklace with cameo clasps. She wears a dark blue silk dress trimmed in white lace and satin, which is complemented by a deep orange cashmere shawl. Completing the fashionable ensemble is a folded fan in her left hand and a white-plumed bonnet on the table beside her. Also on the table is a small collapsible opera glass, suggesting she is dressed for an evening at the theater.

Portrait of a Woman is believed to be one of two ambitious, full-length portraits the artist exhibited at the 1818 Salon in Brussels, her public debut at just 21 years old. A talented pupil of the neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David, then the most celebrated painter in Europe, Fremiet’s Portrait of a Woman shows how thoroughly she had mastered David’s style, while highlighting her own particular talents in the rendering of different fabrics and materials.

Around the same time Fremiet painted Portrait of a Woman, David tasked her with creating a copy of his The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis, which he declared was so skillfully executed that it appeared indistinguishable from his original. She continued to impress David and critics at the various Salons where she exhibited her portraits, historical scenes, and mythological compositions like La Belle Anthia. Upon seeing the last work, a fellow mentee of David wrote to him that Fremiet was “a woman only in clothing but a man by her merit.” While pejorative today, this comment legitimized her in the eyes of her male peers.

“Largely overshadowed by her famous sculptor husband, François Rude, Fremiet has not received the international credit she deserves,” says Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. “Portrait of a Woman is the first painting by Fremiet to enter a U.S. museum and it will be a superb addition to our collection of neoclassical art, which is already strong in the work of David. I expect it will be popular with our visitors on account of its attractive subject, skillful handling, and truly impressive size and scale.”

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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