This pastel portrait of a lady dates from the late eighteenth century. She is pictured in a white muslin dress in the style made fashionable by Marie Antoinette, after she was painted wearing one in 1783. This could have been quite a daring choice for our subject as at the time Marie Antoinette was much criticised for allowing herself to be seen in attire that was deemed to be too similar to undergarments – indeed the style was called ‘la chemise de la reine‘.
It is certainly very different from the ornate rococo styles that had previously dominated. The mop cap worn by our subject suggests that she was a married woman, and obviously of some wealth judging by the intricate lace work and silk ribbons adorning her otherwise relatively simple dress.
There is an intriguing label attached to the back of this portrait – ‘Ernst Museum Auction’. This suggests that it was once the property of Lajos Ernst, who was a noted Hungarian art critic and collector. During his life Ernst collected 6,500 articles from Hungarian history and art and founded a museum in 1912 to house his collection (the Ernst Museum in Budapest, which still exists today). An auction was held there twice a year between 1917 and 1937.