Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Marie-Nicole Dumont: The Woman Artist in Eighteenth-Century France

Marie-Nicole Vestier Dumont (born 8 September 1767)


Earlier this year (January 2018), the Museum of the French Revolution in Vizille (le Musée de la Révolution française), in south-west France, announced the acquisition of a painting by Marie-Nicole Dumont, born Marie-Nicole Vestier. 

The painting, a self-portrait titled L'Auteur à ses occupations, shows Vestier, a palette in her hand, standing in front of her son, Antoine Bias--thus demonstrating her dual roles, as mother and as artist.

Born in Paris in 1767, Marie-Nicole Vestier was the daughter of Marie-Anne Révérand and Antoine Vestier, a miniaturist and portrait painter.

In a painting he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1785, Antoine Vestier shows his daughter, at her easel, painting his portrait.  

In 1789, Marie-Nicole Vestier married François Dumont, with whom she had three children. 

In her self-portrait, The Artist and Her Occupations, the portrait behind Marie-Nicole Dumont is likely that of her husband, who became Marie-Antoinette's court miniature painter in 1786. He remained the "most so ught after" miniaturist in Paris until 1792. (I have also read that the portrait Dumont is engaged in painting is of her father--take your pick.)

It is likely that, after her marriage, Marie-Nicole worked with her husband in his workshop, collaborating on the production of miniatures. No miniature is signed with her name after her marriage--however the name "Dumont" on the workshop's productions may indicate her participation. (In addition to Marie-Nicole, two of François' brothers also worked in the atelier.)

Marie-Nicole Dumont's self-portrait was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1793. In her discussion of the painter, Melissa Hyde suggests that Marie-Nicole DuPont stopped painting shortly after completing this work. (For Hyde's "'Peinte par elle-même?' Women artists, teachers and students from Anguissola to Haudebourt-Lescot," click here.)

Marie-Nicole Dumont died in 1846.

There is a brief discussion of Marie-Nicole Dumont by Neil Jeffares in the Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, which includes a reproduction of a pastel portrait of Philibert Calon, completed c. 1787. 

A slightly longer discussion of Dumont is included in Nathalie Lemoine-Bouchard's Les peintres en miniature: actifs en France, 1650-1850--you may be able to access it by clicking here (I hope so, but no promises--the Boris Wilnitsky Fine Arts Gallery has posted a scan of the essay, and who knows how long it will be available?)

There are several paintings of Dumont online, most of them by her father, but very little of Marie-Nicole's own work is known besides the portrait of Calon, now in the Hermitage Museum, and the self-portrait, recently acquired by the museum in Vizille.