Urgent Museum Notice

Presumed Portrait of Madame Geoffrin

Close up of Presumed Portrait of Madame Geoffrin

A light-skinned, gray-haired woman appears from the waist up, sitting with arms crossed loosely in her lap. Her body turns to her left, but she faces the viewer offering a slight smile and making eye contact. Her white satin gown and fur- and pearl-trimmed red cape imply wealth.

Marianne Loir, Presumed Portrait of Madame Geoffrin, mid-18th century; Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Presumed Portrait of Madame Geoffrin
Marianne Loir

Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin (1699–1777) was famous in Parisian society for holding weekly salons where notable artists, writers, and politicians gathered.

She welcomed luminaries such as architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot and painter François Boucher to her Monday artistic salon. The guest lists for her Wednesday literary salons included accomplished men of the French Enlightenment, such as Voltaire, Diderot, and Montesquieu. The ease of Madame Geoffrin’s posture, the graceful gesture of her free hand, and her direct gaze suggest the confidence she felt socializing with the greatest minds of 18th-century France.

To further emphasize Geoffrin’s importance, painter Marianne Loir conveyed in detail the sumptuousness of the lady’s costume. Loir carefully depicted the complicated pattern in Geoffrin’s satin dress, the pearls decorating her hair, and fur-trimmed red cloak. Even richer, more painterly passages are visible in the folds of the cloak falling over the sitter’s shoulders and hips. Especially impressive is Loir’s treatment of Geoffrin’s delicate striped veil.

What sets this portrait apart from other contemporary examples is Loir’s decision not to idealize her subject. Although Geoffrin is an attractive and thoughtful woman, the soft flesh under her chin hints at the onset of middle age, a detail most fashionable male and female portraitists might have omitted.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Marianne Loir
  • Title

    Presumed Portrait of Madame Geoffrin
  • Date

    n.d.
  • Medium

    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions

    39 1/2 x 32 1/4 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • Photo Credit

    Lee Stalsworth
  • On Display

    No