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Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1843

Claude-Marie Dubufe

French, 1790-1864
Oil on canvas
51-1/8 x 38-3/8 in. (129.8 x 97.5 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1977.13.2.P
© 2012 Norton Simon Art Foundation


Claude-Marie Dubufe began his career painting mythological and religious subjects, and later, sentimental genre scenes. After two decades of success, he turned his attention to the men and women of the bourgeoisie. His portraits were extremely popular, not just in Paris, but also abroad, where he had shown some of his earlier work. Indeed, if one could not afford to sit for Ingres, Dubufe was a suitable second choice. The earliest-known title associated with this work is “Young English Woman.” Though we do not know the identity of the subject, we can see from her surroundings that she is a paragon of the upper middle class. Leaning against a meticulously carved side table that showcases rich brocade, leather-bound books, a porcelain vase and a few pink roses, the subject stares directly, even inquisitively, out of the canvas. Her spiraled tendrils are as meticulously executed as the black lace of her dress, and the overall tone of the picture is one of controlled refinement.

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