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Portrait of the Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria

Portrait of the Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria, 1763

Pierre Bernard
French, 1704-1777
Pastel and gouache on vellum, oval (one of a pair)
27-1/4 x 22-1/4 in. (69.2 x 56.5 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
The Norton Simon Foundation

Not on View

This pastel and its companion represent two of Marie-Antoinette’s sisters, both of whom later became abbesses of powerful convents—a suitable alternative to marriage for noble women. Here, Pierre Bernard depicts the sisters as youthful women, dressed in flounces of ribbon and lace that were fashionable among younger courtly elite. Bernard, like other leading pastellistes of his day, exploited the properties of the medium to achieve stunningly naturalistic fabric texture. The women’s soft, glowing flesh tones are made all the more convincing due to the fact that pastel crayons were made of the same pigments and minerals used to make cosmetics. In the eighteenth century pastel grew in popularity because it allowed artists to achieve an opaque matte finish and utilized soft bright colors preferred by Rococo taste at the time.

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