ARTIST : Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842)
PAINTING : Self-Portrait with Daughter Julie (1789)
EXHIBITION : Plate 12 in book Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun by Gita May (Yale University Press, 2005)
Julie, Age Nine
The girl will not be pried away,
arms around her mother’s neck.
Last night’s dreams were terrifying~~
shouting and running and cannon fires.
Now this morning in softest light,
the girl will not be pried away
from beside her mother’s bedroom chair~~
a child too old for lap or breast,
but not for sleep that terrifies.
How warily she turns her eyes
to meet our gaze, a look suggesting
she yearns to pry her mother away
from painting’s hold on royalty:
Ma mere a peint Marie Antoinette.
Liberty’s dreams bring terrible nights
in this year of seventeen eighty-nine
when history demands a letting go.
But no little girl can be pried away
from dreams of queens so terrified.
by Therese L. Broderick