Marie-Victoire Lemoine (1754-1820) was a French painter who was born in Paris. She led a surprisingly quiet life in one of history’s most violent and chaotic eras. She was brought up along with her three sisters, two of whom also became professional artists. Unlike her sisters, Lemoine never married, instead concentrating on her career and remaining single throughout her lifetime. She became one of the few contemporary women artists to make a living thorough her painting. Lemoine is known for her concentration on the painting of portraits, miniatures, and genre subjects.
Lemoine studied with the history painter François Guillaume Ménageot (1744-1816) who was a member of the Académie royale de Peinture et de sculpture. She is rumored to have also taken lessons from Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun (1755-1842), who along with her husband owned the home where Ménageot lived. She exhibited at the Salon, the official annual exhibition in Paris, irregularly from 1796 to 1814. This was a milestone achievement that could not have been possible without the French Revolution.
Her most important work, Interior of an Atelier of a Woman Painter, was exhibited at the Salon of 1796. Although it is not likely, some critics say that this painting is a portrait of or homage to Vigée-LeBrun, whose own work inspired Lemoine. It is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Portrait of a Youth in an Embroidered Vest was once thought to be a portrait of the well-known Louis Benoît Zamor. He was protégé to King Louis XV’s mistress, Madame Du Barry (1743 — 1793). Zamor fell out of favor for sympathizing with the French Revolution and his testimony against his former patroness at the Committee of Public Safety lead to her execution by guillotine in 1793. Given the richness of the subject’s attire, another hypothesis is that the young man may be one of the two servants of the house of the Duchess d’Orléans (1753-1821) for whom the artist worked.