French Stamps: Portraits of Women

French Stamps: Portraits de femmes dans la peinture

In honor of International Women’s Day, the French Post released a collection of 12 stamps featuring portraits of women last Thursday, March 8th.  Painting like so many other domains was considered an all-male field for centuries.  Women were considered great subjects but not gifted enough to hold a brush on their own.  The paintings were chosen from the collections of some of France’s greatest museums including the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay.  All of the stamps include the painting’s title, artist name and home museum.  I can’t decide whether or not I like the inclusion of so much text on the stamps.  I think I would have preferred just the artist’s name and a greater space devoted to the women’s faces and their varied expressions.

Each of the twelve stamps features a different artist.  It’s particularly nice to see works by five women painters highlighted.  The world’s first well-known female painter, the Frenchwoman Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, made her debut in the 1770s.  Vigée-Lebrun is best-known as Marie-Antoinette’s court painter but her career took her all over Europe from England to Russia.  The French Post, however, chose to highlight her gay portrait of Madame Molé-Raymond (1786).  Almost a century separates her from the earliest of the other female artists in the set.

Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Marie Laurencin and Marie Caire painted in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.  Berthe Morisot is actually featured twice.  Her painting of a young woman attending a ball is the topmost left stamp and one of my favorites.  You can admire the artist herself at the very bottom right of the collection.  Morisot, a student of Camille Corot, was surrounded by artists.  Edouard Manet, her brother-in-law, painted the striking portrait chosen by the French Post here.

The remaining stamps feature portraits of women by Hippolyte Flandrin, Paul Gauguin, Eugène Delacroix, Edouard Barnard Lintott, and Edgar Degas.  My favorite stamp is Flandrin’s Jeune fille–despite the downcast eyes, I can’t take mine off of her.  She’s simply captivating!  Let me wish you and all the other captivating women in your lives, a future rich in possibilities and prosperity!  I might not like the word “feminist” (which has unfortunately taken on a very negative connotation) but I certainly believe in fighting for a world without boundaries for me and my girls!

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