European Art

Still Life Paintings by Anne Vallayer-Coster

Garden Still Life by Anne Vallayer-Coster
Anne Vallayer-Coster, Garden Still Life with Implements, Vegetables, Dead Game and a Bust of Ceres, 1774. Basildon Park – National Trust, Reading, United Kingdom. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

I wanted to include this artist in my still lives post, but I didn’t have the book I needed yesterday. So, she gets her own post instead! Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818) was an 18th-century French artist who specialized in still life painting. She was so good at it that she became official painter to Marie-Antoinette.

Bust of Minerva with Armour and Weapons by Anne Vallayer-Coster
Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bust of Minerva with Armour and Weapons on a Stone Ledge, 1777. Current location unknown, at least to me. (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons.

Vallayer-Coster included lots of beautiful flowers in her paintings, but I find myself more drawn to her frequent use of classically-inspired busts. They add expressive qualities beyond what we usually find in still life paintings. I particularly enjoy the bust of Ceres in the garden still life shown at the top of the page. I like how she watches over the scene and makes eye contact with the viewer. She’s a character to connect with in a scene that doesn’t usually have any. The bust of Minerva in the military still life shown directly above doesn’t engage with the viewer, but she gazes off with a dreamlike expression that I find compelling. Again, such a thing isn’t usually part of this genre. The military objects in that painting provide a great display of well-painted colors and textures.

Vase of Flowers with a Bust of Flora by Anne Vallayer-Coster
Anne Vallayer-Coster, Vase of Flowers with a Bust of Flora, 1774. Present whereabouts known. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

Source:
Harris, Ann Sutherland & Linda Nochlin. Women Artists: 1550-1950. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976. P. 179-184.

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