As the Eye is Formed: Marie-Gabrielle Capet and the Artist in her Studio

  • Emma Rodney Drouin University of St Andrews


Marie-Gabrielle Capet’s painting Studio Scene (Adélaïde Labille-Guiard paints Joseph-Marie Vien, lay invisible for 185 years, between the Paris Salon of 1808 and its purchase in 1993 for the Munich Neue Pinakothek. This paper analyses this complex painting, its meaning and importance to art history, within the context of women’s art education, self-portraiture, and exhibition culture in France during the last quarter of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. Capet’s painting documents how a woman in Paris at the turn of the nineteenth century navigated a man’s world and succeeded in putting forward powerful messages on women’s rights to an education within the studio, and equality between the sexes amongst artists. First, Capet’s journey to becoming an established working artist is examined. Then, the Salon of 1808, its politics and the critical reception of Capet’s painting are discussed.  Finally, the image of the professional working woman artist and the underlying messages in Capet’s painting are analysed. This paper concludes by discussing the importance of Capet’s painting for art history and its relevance to today’s viewer.