Urgent Museum Notice

Anne Vallayer-Coster

A painting of a light-skinned adult woman holding a paintbrush and palette, smiling as she paints. Her voluminous gray hair is curled and pulled up into a huge style with a green ribbon in it. Matching green ribbons embellish her elegant blue and white dress.

Alexander Roslin, Portrait of Anne Vallayer-Coster, 1783; Crocker Art Museum, gift of Alan Templeton

1744–1818

Vallayer-Coster was born into an artistic family; her mother painted miniatures and her father Joseph Vallayer was a master goldsmith. Her father’s elevated status and aristocratic patronage may have helped the young Vallayer-Coster overcome some of the restraints that hindered many women artists.

At the age of 26, Vallayer-Coster was elected into the Académie Royale by a unanimous vote, a remarkable sign of approval as only four women artists were admitted to the Académie at a time. She exhibited in the Salon regularly from 1771 until 1817, showing still-life paintings of bowls of fruit, dead game, shells, and flowers.

In 1780 she was named Painter to Queen Marie Antoinette. She continued painting a broad range of subjects and themes including animals, trompe-l’oeil bas reliefs, miniatures, and full-sized portraits, which mirrored the opulence of French aristocracy before the Revolution.

Vallayer-Coster was often compared to female contemporaries, including Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, who were more widely praised as portraitists. After a scathing review from critics at the Salon of 1785, Vallayer-Coster quit painting portraits and instead focused on still lifes.

Due to her close association with Marie Antoinette, her career suffered during the French Revolution. She continued exhibiting at the Salon, however, until the year before her death.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Anne Vallayer-Coster
  • Birth

    Paris, 1744
  • Death

    Paris, 1818
  • Phonetic Spelling

    an vah-lah-yai(r) koh-stai(r)

Works by Anne Vallayer-Coster

Madame de Saint-Huberty in the Role of Dido

Trained by her father, a goldsmith and tapestry designer to the French king, Anne Vallayer-Coster gained renown for her still-life paintings, but also painted portraits of members of the royal family and other luminaries.

Her depiction of Madame de Saint-Huberty in the Role of Dido reveals her deep knowledge of her famous sitter. In 1783, Anne-Antoinette Clavel (known as Saint-Huberty, 1756-1812) performed the...

Realistic painting of a light-skinned woman with elaborately-coiffed medium-brown hair, gazing at the viewer, wearing a classic white silk dress and red draped cape with gold embellishments, gesturing dramatically with one hand over her heart and the other extended outward.