Jacques Louis David | Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794) and Marie Anne Lavoisier (Marie Anne Pierrette Paulze, 1758–1836) | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2022)

This is one of the most important portraits of the eighteenth century, painted in 1788 when David had become the self-appointed standard-bearer of French Neoclassicism. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier is known today as the founder of modern chemistry, for his pioneering studies of gunpowder, oxygen, and the chemical composition of water. In 1789, his theories were published in the influential Traité elementaire de chimie. The illustrations in this book were prepared by his wife, Marie Anne Pierrette Paulze. She was only thirteen when her father, a fermier-général (tax collector for the royal government), married her to the twenty-eight-year-old Lavoisier. The couple's income and social standing came from Lavoisier's own position of fermier-général, which eventually led to his execution at the guillotine in 1794, during the French Revolution. His widow married the eccentric American inventor Count Rumford in 1804; she died in Paris in 1836.

Technical analysis has revealed that, in fact, a first iteration of the portrait would have foregrounded the Lavoisiers as members of the tax collector class: none of the scientific instruments were originally present; Madame Lavoisier wore a gigantic feathered and beribboned hat (see fig. 5 above and Technical Notes). It is possible to identify the hat with fashion prints from the summer and autumn of 1787 (fig. 6). Understanding this middle step between relatively conventional portraiture and this revolutionary approach that has become an icon of Neoclassicism has made it possible to appreciate David’s innovation (see Pullins, Mahon, and Centeno 2021).

Full-length standing portraits of private citizens are rare in French eighteenth-century painting, though much more frequent in British portraits of landed gentry and nobility. The air of informality and arrested, spontaneous action seems to derive from English portrait models, but the controlling reference, as Edgar Wind determined in 1947, is to the trope of "artist and his muse." Apropos the position of Madame Lavoisier in this painting, Antoine Schnapper (1982) cited Jean-François Ducis's verse, "Pour Lavoisier, soumis à vos lois / Vous remplissez les deux emplois / Et de muse et de secrétaire" (For Lavoisier, subject to your law, you fill two posts, that of muse and of secretary). David may have been inspired by Antoine Vestier’s portrait of the Chabanel family (1786; private collection), shown at the Salon of 1787. Certainly the influence of women painters, notably Elisabeth Vigée LeBrun and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, who led in this genre, influenced the informality of pose.

Lavoisier's habit noir was the customary dress of men who owed their rank to a profession or purchased office. In the earlier version of the painting he appears to have worn a brown suit with gold buttons extending further down his leg, making for more formal attire, as well as a red mantle across his shoulders. The latter would have certainly marked this as a more formal image, one recalling Baroque portraiture. Madame Lavoisier's muslin gown is characteristic of fashionable women of her day. Both are presented formally, and not in déshabille, as was the eighteenth-century convention for artists and scientists at work. In other words, the interruption that provides the pretext for the portrait is as carefully staged as every other aspect of the painting, from the array of instruments that would not necessarily be used together, to the red velvet cloth, inappropriate for messy scientific experiments, to the expensive gilt furniture and the invented, though stately and restrained, architecture. Madame Lavoisier recorded an experiment in her husband's actual laboratory in a drawing made in 1790–91 (private collection), in which she includes herself in a pose that echoes that of her husband in David's painting.

Although the documents concerning the commission have not been found, David's payment of 7,000 livres is recorded in a receipt dated December 16, 1788 (Grimaux 1888 and Brière 1909). This was a huge sum: David had charged Louis XVI only 6,000 livres for The Lictors Returning to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons (Musée du Louvre, Paris). It may be that the amount captured something of the extended genesis of the work, the earlier version having reached a surprising degree of completion before David changed course, eliminated the most distracting aspects of contemporary fashion, and foregrounded science. David had planned to include the Lavoisier portrait at the Salon of 1789, but it was withdrawn at the last minute and not exhibited publicly until a hundred years later. Although it has since become one of David's most famous works, and is justifiably considered his finest portrait, it had no immediate impact on the artists of David's generation, nor on the generation of his students.

[2017; adapted from Tinterow and Miller 2005; revised 2021]

The portrait is painted in oil on canvas prepared with a thickly applied, smooth lead white ground which conceals the fabric texture. Prior to entering the collection, the painting was lined to fabric with a glue/paste adhesive. During this procedure the original tacking edges were removed and paper tape was adhered to the perimeter. The stretcher is a modern replacement. There is no record of when the painting was relined but, judging from the appearance of the lining, it is likely that this was done around the time the painting was sold by Wildenstein to John D. Rockefeller in 1924–25. The painting was cleaned and restored in 1974 after it was purchased by Charles and Jayne Wrightsman. In 2019 it was cleaned and restored, and a technical investigation was carried out. The investigation involved examination of the surface with magnification, imaging with infrared reflectography, as well as scanning MA-XRF analysis. Seven paint samples were taken to answer specific questions. The findings of the technical study summarized below are published in full in Burlington Magazine and the open-source online journal Heritage Science (see Refs).

Infrared reflectography (IRR) reveals that David began by drawing the two subjects directly onto the ground with a dry carbonaceous medium (see fig. 7 above). Other features such as the parquet floor were drawn and reinforced with black paint, as was the meandering hemline of Madame Lavoisier. In addition to the parquet floor, David had already drawn the dado and pilaster before adding the armchair, portfolio, and shawl. The floorboards are painted with careful directional strokes within the confines of the individually drawn boards.

The IRR reveals the brisk expressive strokes, commonly referred to as frottis, which David applied to tone down the white ground with a hot brown paint before painting the background. To achieve a subtle variations in the architecture of the wall, the artist scumbled thinly on top of the frottis with a mixture containing lead white and black to achieve a cooler gray. By contrast, he painted the pilasters more transparently with an admixture containing less black, making greater optical use of the brownish frottis to achieve a slightly lighter, warm gray color. The modeling of the flutes was achieved economically by scumbling with thin applications of lead white.

The IRR reveals that initially David composed the portrait with Lavoisier seated at a writing desk populated with various objects atop and below. Lavoisier’s proper left leg was drawn using fluid strokes of black paint and the position was shifted several times before the artist painted it from the shoe to just below the knee. The position of the proper right leg was also adjusted.

Hints of other vague features in the IRR include a dark passage at the top of Madame Lavoisier’s head, an indistinct light shape associated with Lavoisier’s proper left arm, and rectangular shapes extending from the right perimeter just above the desktop—all features made clear through scanning MA-XRF analysis (fig. 5). Initially Madame Lavoisier was wearing a large red and black hat. The color of the ribbons and sash decorating her costume were originally red. The color of Lavoisier’s costume was initially brown with golden buttons. When the color of his suit was changed to black with black buttons, the length of the jacket was shortened. Originally Lavoisier was fashioned with a red drape wrapped around his proper left arm and falling onto his lap down to the floor. Other features in the early composition include a globe on the desktop and a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf at right (fig. 8). The hat and bookshelf were painted out and a red velvet tablecloth was used to cover the desk and features below the desk. The scientific instruments were then painted on top of the red velvet tablecloth.

Dorothy Mahon 2021

Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower left): L. David [faciebat] / parisiis anno / 1788

the sitter, Paris (until d. 1794); his wife, Mme Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, later Countess Rumford, Paris (1794–d. 1836; inv. 1796, unnumbered); her great-niece, comtesse Pierre-Léon Bérard de Chazelles, Paris and the Auvergne (1836–d. 1888); her son, comte Étienne Bérard de Chazelles, Paris, and château de la Canière, near Aigueperse (1888–d. 1923; his estate, 1923–24; sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, 1924–25; sold to Rockefeller]; John D. Rockefeller Jr., New York (1925–27); Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, later Rockefeller University, New York (1927–77; sold to The Met)

Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition centennale de l'art français (1789–1889)," May–November 1889, no. 234 (lent by M. Étienne de Chazelles).

Paris. Jeu de Paume. "Cent portraits de femmes," April 23–July 1, 1909, no. 57 (lent by M. Étienne de Chazelles).

Paris. Palais des Beaux-Arts. "David et ses élèves," April 7–June 9, 1913, no. 20 (lent by M. Étienne de Chazelles).

New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 227 (lent by the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York).

Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries. "David: Exposition en l'honneur du deuxième centenaire de sa naissance," June 1–September 30, 1948, no. M.O. 23 (lent by the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research).

Paris. Grand Palais. "De David à Delacroix: La peinture française de 1774 à 1830," November 16, 1974–February 3, 1975, no. 33 (lent by Rockefeller University, New York).

Detroit Institute of Arts. "French Painting 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution," March 5–May 4, 1975, no. 33.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution," June 12–September 7, 1975, no. 33.

Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Eye of Thomas Jefferson," June 5–September 6, 1976, no. 105 (lent by Rockefeller University).

Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Jacques-Louis David, 1748–1825," October 26, 1989–February 12, 1990, no. 84.


[Charles Etienne Gabriel] Cuvillier. Letter to [Joseph Marie] Vien. August 10, 1789 [published in Nouvelles archives de l'art français 22, series 3, année 1906 (1907), p. 264], imagines that M. Lavoisier would be the first to desire not to have his portrait exhibited [at the salon of 1789].

Inventaire après le déces du Cit. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. May 26, 1796, p. 30, lists the portrait as being granted to Madame Lavoisier and not to be restituted by the revolutionary authorities.

[Pierre Jean-Baptiste Chaussard]. Le Pausanias français, ou description du salon de 1806. Paris, 1806, pp. 156–57, assesses the importance of the portrait.

Marie Renée Geneviève Brossard de Beaulieu. Letter to the members of the Institut National. May 9, 1806 [see Ref. Beretta 2001, pp. 67–68], presents an engraving of Lavoisier, stating that she had begun work on it before viewing David's portrait.

Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. J.-L. David. Paris, 1824, p. 43.

A[imé]. Th[omé de Gamond]. Vie de David. Paris, 1826, p. 165, erroneously, as two separate portraits.

A. Mahul. Annuaire nécrologique, ou complément annuel . . . année 1825. Paris, 1826, p. 141, erroneously, as two separate portraits.

P[ierre]. A[lexandre]. Coupin. Essai sur J. L. David, peintre d'histoire . . . Paris, 1827, p. 54.

Charles Blanc. Histoire des peintres français au dix-neuvième siècle. Paris, 1845, vol. 1, p. 209.

Miette de Villars. Mémoires de David, peintre et député à la Convention. Paris, 1850, p. 100.

E[tienne] J[ean] Delécluze. Louis David, son école & son temps. Paris, 1855, p. 137 n. 1.

Jean du Seigneur. "Appendice à la notice de P. Chaussard sur L. David." Revue universelle des arts 18 (1864), p. 366, erroneously, as two separate portraits.

L.-J. [J. L. Jules] David and Jacques Louis David. Notice sur le Marat de Louis David suivie de la liste de ses tableaux dressée par lui-même. Paris, 1867, p. 34, no. 17.

[Pierre] Truchot. Les instruments de Lavoisier: Relation d'une visite à La Canière (Puy-de-Dôme), où se trouvent réunis les appareils ayant servi à Lavoisier. Paris, 1879, pp. 1–4, 25 [reprinted from "Annales de chimie et de physique," 5e sér., 18 (1879)], in addition to Lavoisier's portrait and the receipt, and the scientific instruments at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, describes those still belonging to the family.

J. L. Jules David. Le peintre Louis David, 1748–1825. Vol. 1, Souvenirs & documents inédits. Paris, 1880, pp. 53, 637.

Video: Science and Art # 1 - The portrait of Lavoisier made by Jacques-Louis David (1788)

Adrien Delahante. Une famille de finance au XVIIIe siècle. Vol. 2, 2nd ed. Paris, 1881, pp. 547–48, describes the annual visits he made as a boy to the home of Mme de Rumfort, where he saw this portrait.

J. L. Jules David. Le peintre Louis David, 1748–1825. Vol. 2, Suite d'eaux-fortes d'après ses oeuvres gravées par J. L. Jules David, son petit-fils. Paris, 1882, ill. (David etching), lists it under 1788, giving the medium and dimensions.

Edouard Grimaux. Lavoisier, 1743–1794. Paris, 1888, pp. VI, 364–65, ill. (frontispiece, Lemercier heliogravure), based upon documentation made available by the family, provides biographies of the couple, claiming that Madame Lavoisier studied painting with David.

H. Mercereau. Lavoisier: Sa vie, ses travaux. Paris, [1890], p. 12.

Léon Rosenthal. Louis David. Paris, [1904], p. 165, erroneously dates it 1787.

Charles Saunier. Louis David. Paris, 1904, p. 124, ill. p. 17.

Prosper Dorbec. "David portraitiste." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 37 (1907), pp. 310–11, 321 n. 1, ill., observes that David here imitates Vigée Le Brun, in that his desire to please is transparent; [erroneously?] as in the Musée du Mans.

G. Brière. "Catalogue critique des œuvres d'artistes français réunies à l'exposition de cent portraits de femmes du XVIIIe siècle." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français (1909), pp. 122–24, no. 57, reproduces David's receipt.

Léon Rosenthal. "L'exposition de David et ses élèves au Petit Palais." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 33 (May 1913), p. 342.

Charles Saunier. "David et son école au palais des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris (Petit Palais)." Gazette des beaux-arts, ser. 4, 9 (May 1913), p. 376 [misnumbered 276].

Albert Dreyfus. "Jacques Louis David und Seine Schule." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 24 (1913), p. 280, ill. p. 278.

Camille Gronkowski. "'David et ses élèves' at the Petit Palais—I." Burlington Magazine 23 (May 1913), p. 78.

Gustav Pauli. "David im Petit Palais." Kunst und Künstler 11 (August 1913), pp. 544, 546, comments on the portrait's English appearance, mentioning Romney.

Lucien-André Lichy. "David et ses élèves au Petit Palais." Les Amis de Paris no. 21 (1913), p. 578, ill.

G. Capon. Le portrait de M. et Mme Lavoisier par David. Paris, 1924, pp. 1–4, ill. [Wildenstein brochure; English ed., New York, pp. 1–8, ill.].

Georges Grappe. "La psychologie de David." L'art vivant 1 (December 15, 1925), ill. p. 29.

Graham Lusk. "Mementoes of Lavoisier: Notes on a Trip to Château de la Canière." Journal of the American Medical Association 85 (October 17, 1925), p. 1247.

W. R. Valentiner. Jacques Louis David and the French Revolution. New York, 1929, fig. 13.

Richard Cantinelli. Jacques-Louis David, 1748–1825. Paris, 1930, p. 104, no. 55, pl. 19, as in the MMA [see Notes].

D. S. MacColl. "Jacques-Louis David and the Ducreux Family." Burlington Magazine 72 (June 1938), p. 264, pl. IIA.

Alfred M. Frankfurter. "383 Masterpieces of Art." Art News (The 1940 Annual) 38 (May 25, 1940), ill. p. 37.

Klaus Holma. David, son evolution et son style. Paris, 1940, pp. 53, 118 n. 58, p. 126, no. 61, pl. 17, compares it with David's "Paris and Helen" (Musée du Louvre, Paris), as two works issuing from the same thought; [erroneously] as in the MMA.

Edgar Wind. "The Sources of David's 'Horaces'." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 4 (1940–41), pp. 136–38, pl. 32C, finds it probable that David worked on this painting and "Paris and Helen" simultaneously; that "they were associated in his imagination, and that the theme of each picture is 'parodied' (in the musical sense of the word) by the other"; sees this portrait as a type of the author and his muse, deriving from English models, particularly from Hogarth's portrait of Garrick and His Wife (Windsor Castle), which was known on the continent through engravings.

John Shapley. "More Masters at the Fair." Parnassus 12 (May 1940), ill. p. 10.

Jacques Maret. David. Monaco, 1943, p. 117, no. 38, pl. 38.

Helen Rosenau. The Painter Jacques-Louis David. London, 1948, p. 26, pl. 4, fig. 1.

David Lloyd Dowd. Pageant-Master of the Republic: Jacques-Louis David and the French Revolution. Lincoln, Neb., 1948, p. 19.

Douglas Cooper. "Jacques-Louis David: A Bi-Centenary Exhibition." Burlington Magazine 90 (October 1948), p. 278.

Philippe Huisman. "Au musée de l'Orangerie: J.-L. David, 1748–1825." Arts, beaux-arts, littérature, spectacles (June 25, 1948), ill. p. p8.

Douglas Cooper. "Review of David 1948." Burlington Magazine 91 (February 1949), p. 57.

Douglas McKie. Antoine Lavoisier: Scientist, Economist, Social Reformer. New York, 1952, pp. 95, 294–95, ill. (frontispiece).

Denis I. Duveen. "Madame Lavoisier 1758–1836." Chymia: Annual Studies in the History of Chemistry 4 (1953), pp. 17, 27, mentions this portrait in discussing Madame Lavoisier's life.

Louis Hautecœur. Louis David. Paris, 1954, pp. 105, 287, 305.

Denis I. Duveen and Herbert S. Klickstein. A Bibliography of the Works of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. London, 1954, pp. 158, 378, 462.

Jack Lindsay. Death of the Hero: French Painting from David to Delacroix. London, 1960, p. 60.

"Homage by Masterpiece." Art News 60 (April 1961), pp. 29–30, ill.

Frederick Antal. Hogarth and His Place in European Art. London, 1962, pp. 199–200, pl. 129a, mentions this portrait as suggested to David by Hogarth's "Garrick and His Wife".

Lucien Scheler. Lavoisier. Paris, 1964, p. 150.

Alvar González-Palacios. David (Maestri del Colore). no. 161, Milan, 1966, ill. in index of illustrations and on cover (color).

Hugh Honour. Neo-classicism. Baltimore, 1968, pp. 72, 198, no. 28, fig. 28, [erroneously] states that this is the David painting "encore loin d'être achevé" mentioned by Cuvillier in 1789.

Frederick Cummings. "Folly and Mutability in Two Romantic Paintings: 'The Alchemist' and 'Democritus' by Joseph Wright." Art Quarterly 33, no. 3 (1970), p. 256, fig. 8, notes that the bell jar is more developed than the one in the engraving of Joseph Priestly (fig. 7).

Robert L. Herbert. David, Voltaire, 'Brutus' and the French Revolution: An Essay in Art and Politics. New York, 1972, pp. 58–59, 125, 137 nn. 44, 47, pl. 29.

Michael Levey


Art and Architecture of the Eighteenth Century in France. Harmondsworth, England, 1972, pp. 124, 193, 195, pl. 199, as probably commissioned through Madame Lavoisier.

Michel Laclotte


The Age of Neo-Classicism. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1972, p. lxx.

René Verbraeken. Jacques-Louis David jugé par ses contemporains et par la postérité. Paris, 1973, pp. 14, 28, 30, 32, 147, 245, pl. 22.

Daniel Wildenstein and Guy Wildenstein. Documents complémentaires au catalogue de l'oeuvre de Louis David. Paris, 1973, p. 27, no. 205, p. 209, no. 1810, p. 226, no. 1938 (17).

Werner Hofmann. "Poesie und Prosa: Rangfragen in der Neueren Kunst." Jahrbuch der Hamburger Kunstsammlungen 18 (1973), p. 192, fig. 13.

Joachim Gaus. "Ingenium und ars—das Ehepaarbildnis Lavoisier von David und die Ikonographie der Museninspiration." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 36 (1974), pp. 199–228, ill. p. 201.

Pierre Rosenberg. "Expositions: Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, De David à Delacroix, La peinture française de 1774 à 1830." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 24 (1974), p. 443, ill. p. 445.

Charles McCorquodale. "From David to Delacroix." Art International 19 (June 15, 1975), pp. 24–25, ill., mentions a parallel in Louis Michel van Loo.

Antoine Schnapper et al.


French Painting, 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1975, p. 369, no. 33, pl. 87 [French ed., "De David à Delacroix: La peinture française de 1774 à 1830," Paris, 1974, pp. 368–69, no. 33, pl. 43].

Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée

Video: 18th-Century (Costume) Historians React to "HAMILTON" (ft. some mild roasting)


The Eye of Thomas Jefferson. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1976, pp. 59, 359, no. 105, ill.

Malcolm N. Carter. "What Do Museum Directors and Curators Go to See in New York?" Art News 75 (November 1976), pp. 80–82, ill.

Lydie Huyghe


René Huyghe. La Relève de l'imaginaire. La Peinture française au XIXe siècle: Réalisme, romantisme. Paris, 1976, pp. 446–47, fig. 35 (overall), colorpl. 3 (detail).

Denys Sutton


Paris—New York: A Continuing Romance. Exh. cat., Wildenstein. New York, 1977, pp. 34–35, ill.

Thomas B. Hess. "David's Plot." New York Magazine (May 9, 1977), pp. 101–3, ill. (color).

Henri Michel. Images des sciences: Les anciens instruments scientifiques vus par les artistes de leur temps. Rhode-St.-Genèse, Belgium, 1977, p. 77, ill.

H(enry). R. H(ope). "Exhibitions." Art Journal 37 (1977), p. 66.

James Parker. "The French Eighteenth-Century Rooms in the Newly Re-opened Wrightsman Galleries." Apollo 106 (November 1977), p. 377, ill. on cover (color).

Denys Sutton. "Editorial: In the French Taste." Apollo 106 (November 1977), ill. on cover (color) and p. 331 (in the Wrightsman Galleries).

George Levitine. Girodet-Trioson: An Iconographical Study. PhD diss., Harvard University. New York, 1978, pp. 313–14, fig. 61, relates the theme to Fragonard's "Inspiration" (Musée du Louvre, Paris).

Dean Walker


The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1975–1979. New York, 1979, pp. 53–54, ill. (color).

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 388–89, fig. 700 (color).

Anita Brookner. Jacques-Louis David. New York, 1980, pp. 88, 90, 105, 132–33, fig. 46.

Philip Conisbee. Painting in Eighteenth-Century France. Oxford, 1981, p. 134, fig. 110.

Antoine Schnapper. David. English ed. New York, 1982, pp. 50, 84, 92, colorpl. 40 [French ed., "David, témoin de son temps," Fribourg, Switzerland, 1980].

David R. Smith. "Rembrandt's Early Double Portraits and the Dutch Conversation Piece." Art Bulletin 64 (June 1982), p. 279, fig. 37, as influenced by Rembrandt's "Shipbuilder and His Wife" (fig. 19).

Philippe Bordes. Le Serment du Jeu de Paume de Jacques-Louis David: Le peintre, son milieu et son temps de 1789 à 1792. Paris, 1983, p. 23.

Michael Wilson. "A New Acquisition for the National Gallery: David's Portrait of Jacobus Blauw." Burlington Magazine 126 (November 1984), p. 698.

Luc de Nanteuil. Jacques-Louis David. New York, 1985, pp. 23, 56, 68, 96, colorpl. 13.

Thomas E. Crow. Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris. New Haven, 1985, p. 231, ill., as "a tribute not to a patron but to an equal".

Antoine Schnapper


1770–1830: Autour du Néo-Classicisme en Belgique. Ed. Denis Coekelberghs and Pierre Loze. Exh. cat., Musée Communal des Beaux-Arts d'Ixelles. [Brussels], 1985, p. 32.

Elmar Stolpe. Klassizismus und Krieg: Über den Historienmaler Jacques-Louis David. Frankfurt, 1985, pp. 184–90, fig. 53.

Frederick Lawrence Holmes. Lavoisier and the Chemistry of Life: An Exploration of Scientific Creativity. Madison, 1985, ill. (detail, frontispiece).

Simon Schama. "The Domestication of Majesty: Royal Family Portraiture, 1500–1850." Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17 (Summer 1986), p. 180.

Yvonne Korshak. "'Paris and Helen' by Jacques Louis David: Choice and Judgment on the Eve of the French Revolution." Art Bulletin 69 (March 1987), p. 114 n. 46.

Albert Boime. A Social History of Modern Art. Vol. 1, Art in an Age of Revolution, 1750–1800. Chicago, 1987, pp. 411, 413–17, fig. 5.5, compares David's method to Lavoisier's, suggesting that both "acquired reputations for their capacity for sustained work, painstaking regard for detail and logical thought".

Jean-Jacques Lévêque. L'art et la Révolution française, 1789–1804. Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 1987, pp. 140, 143, ill. (color).

John Leighton. Jacques-Louis David, 'Portrait of Jacobus Blauw'. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 1987, pp. 5–6, fig. 3.

Donna Marie Hunter. "Second Nature: Portraits by J.-L. David, 1769–1792." PhD diss., Harvard University, 1988, pp. 323–52, 357, 403–04 nn. 21–22, p. 405 n. 27, p. 407 n. 37, p. 408 n. 39, p. 409 n. 43, p. 410 n. 50, pl. 70, points out that Lavoisier wears the semi-official "habit noir," that the format and size suggest the tradition of state portraiture; and notes that the equipment does not appear to be the apparatus for a single experiment.

Philippe Bordes. David. Paris, [1988], colorpl. 48.

Régis Michel. David: L'art et le politique. Paris, 1988, pp. 48–49, 170, ill. in color (overall and detail).

Carter Ratcliffe. Komar and Melamid. New York, 1988, p. 130.

Denys Sutton


Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 1989, p. 21, fig. 9.

Gilles Néret. David: La terreur et la vertu. Paris, 1989, ill. p. 34 (color).

Bernard Noël. David. Paris, 1989, pp. 26–27, ill. in color (overall and detail).

Jean-Jacques Lévêque. La vie et l'oeuvre de Jacques-Louis David. Paris, 1989, p. 64, ill. (color).

Warren Roberts. Jacques-Louis David, Revolutionary Artist: Art, Politics, and the French Revolution. Chapel Hill, 1989, pp. 43–45, fig. 11.

Alan Wintermute


1789: French Art During the Revolution. Ed. Alan Wintermute. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1989, pp. 112, 257.

Carol S. Eliel


1789: French Art During the Revolution. Ed. Alan Wintermute. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1989, pp. 57, 61 n. 54, fig. 12, sees the influence of Northern prototypes.

Madeleine Pinault


La Révolution française et l'Europe, 1789–1799. Exh. cat., Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1989, p. 201.

Claudine Billoux. Lavoisier: Ses collaborateurs et la révoluion chimique. Exh. cat., Ecole Polytechnique. Palaiseau, 1989, p. 1, no. 2, ill. on cover (color).

Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. rev., enl. ed. New York, 1989, p. 390.

Simon Schama. Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. New York, 1989, p. 77, fig. 24.

Antoine Schnapper


Jacques-Louis David, 1748–1825. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre, Paris and Musée National du Château, Versailles. Paris, 1989, pp. 19–20, 192–94, 573, no. 84, ill. (color), describes a letter of February 20, 1788, to Mme Lavoisier from Hassenfratz, Lavoisier's collaborator, suggesting ideas for her project of celebrating her husband through a work of art; suggests that the instruments depicted here allude to his great experiments of 1783–85 involving the analysis and synthesis of water.

W. A. Smeaton. "Monsieur and Madame Lavoisier in 1789: The Chemical Revolution and the French Revolution." Ambix: The Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry 36 (March 1989), pp. 3–4, fig. 1.

Philippe Bordes. "Paris and Versailles: David." Burlington Magazine 132 (February 1990), p. 155, fig. 103.

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Allen Kurzweil. "Laboratory of the Soul." Art and Antiques 7 (November 1990), pp. 94, 125, ill. in color.

Colin Bailey. "David in Paris: Classicism's Most Compelling Defender." Art International 11 (Summer 1990), pp. 98–99, ill. in color, sees David as challenging Reynolds and Gainsborough.

Fiona Biddulph. "Spotlight on David." Museums Journal (January 1990), p. 25, ill. (in color).

Barbara Scott. "Letter from Paris: David's Portraits." Apollo 131 (February 1990), pp. 115–16, ill.

David Wisner. "Les portraits de femmes de J.-L. David pendant la Révolution française." Les femmes et la Révolution française. Vol. 2, Toulouse, 1990, pp. 177–78, unnumbered pl.

Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. Ed. Nicholas H. J. Hall. New York, 1992, p. 22.

Colin B. Bailey


The Loves of the Gods: Mythological Painting from Watteau to David. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. New York, 1992, p. 509.

Luc de Nanteuil. "Un grand mécène: Jayne Wrightsman." Connaissance des arts 490 (December 1992), pp. 34, 38, fig. 2 (color).

Arthur Donovan. Antoine Lavoisier: Science, Administration, and Revolution. Oxford, 1993, p. 239, fig. 4.

Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent. Lavoisier: Mémoires d'une révolution. Paris, 1993, p. 90, ill. opp. p. 241.

Colin Bailey. "'Les grands, les cordons bleus': Les clients de David avant la Révolution." David contre David. Ed. Régis Michel. Paris, 1993, vol. 1, p. 145.

Antoine Schnapper. "David et l'argent." David contre David. Ed. Régis Michel. Paris, 1993, vol. 2, p. 915.

Jean-Claude Lebensztejn. "Histoires belges." David contre David. Ed. Régis Michel. Paris, 1993, vol. 2, p. 1017.

Christopher Lloyd. The Queen's Pictures: Old Masters from the Royal Collection. [London], 1994, p. 74, cites it in relation to Hogarth's portrait of David Garrick and his wife, from about 1757 (Royal Collection), as examples of genius inspired by a muse; mentions earlier precedents.

Jean-Pierre Poirier and Bruno Jacomy. "Le couple Lavoisier sous l'œil de David." Musée des Arts et Métiers: La revue no. 6 (March 1994), pp. 26–29, ill. (overall and details).

Madeleine Pinault Sørensen. "Madame Lavoisier, dessinatrice et peintre." Musée des Arts et Métiers: La revue no. 6 (March 1994), pp. 23–25.

Mary Vidal. "David Among the Moderns: Art, Science, and the Lavoisiers." Journal of the History of Ideas 56 (October 1995), pp. 595–623, ill., analyzes the portrait in terms of the new social ideals, and views it as a "celebration of aesthetic and scientific invention, the 'wedding' of art and science in service to society"; sees as an intentional pair to the portrait David's "The Loves of Paris and Helen," also painted in 1788 and exhibited at the Salon of that year.

Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 386, ill.

Michael Kimmelman. "At the Met with Roy Lichtenstein: Disciple of Color and Line, Master of Irony." New York Times (March 31, 1995), p. C27.

Diana Barkan. "Louis Médard; Henri Tachoire. Histoire de la thermochemie: Prélude a la thermodynamique chimique, Provence, 1994." Isis 87 (March 1996), p. 147.

Jean-Pierre Poirier. Lavoisier: Chemist, Biologist, Economist. Philadelphia, 1996, pp. 1–3, 131, 244, 403, 410, 464 nn. 54, 72, fig. 1.

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames. London, 1996, p. 451 n. 7a.

Johanna Hecht. "A Philosophe's Odyssey: How Houdon's Bust of Condorcet Made Its Way to Philadelphia." Franklin and Condorcet: Two Portraits from the American Philosophical Society. Philadelphia, 1997, p. 16, fig. 9 (detail).

Eberhard Roters. Malerei des 19. Jahrhunderts: Themen und Motive. Cologne, 1998, vol. 1, pp. 98–101, 109–10 nn. 2–7, ill.

Sophie Monneret. David et le néoclassicisme. Paris, 1998, pp. 78–79, ill. (color).

Valerie L. Hillings. "Komar and Melamid's Dialogue with (Art) History." Art Journal 58 (Winter 1999), p. 54.

Warren Roberts. Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Louis Prieur: Revolutionary Artists. Albany, 2000, pp. 259, 318, 343 n. 34, fig. 96.

Thomas E. Crow. "Ingres and David." Apollo 153 (June 2001), p. 12, fig. 3 (color).

Marco Beretta. Imaging a Career in Science: The Iconography of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. Canton, Mass., 2001, pp. viii, xiii, xiv, 2, 6–7, 9, 12–13, 16, 21, 25–28, 30–31, 34–37, 39–42, 64, 67–68, 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 94, 100, 103, 115, colorpl. 1, figs. 3, 4(a), 5(a), 6(a), 7 (details), studies the laboratory instruments and identifies their real-life analogues.

Roald Hoffmann. "Mme. Lavoisier." American Scientist 90 (January–February 2002), p. 23.

Jean-Pierre Poirier. Histoire des femmes de science en France du Moyen Age à la Révolution. Paris, 2002, pp. 295–96 n. 2.

Mary Vidal


"The 'Other Atelier': Jacques-Louis David's Female Students." Women, Art and the Politics of Identity in Eighteenth-Century Europe. Ed. Melissa Hyde and Jennifer Milam. Aldershot, England, 2003, p. 247.

Jean-Pierre Poirier. La science et l'amour: Madame Lavoisier. Paris, 2004, pp. 107–9, 122, 163, 231.

Philippe Bordes. Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. New Haven, 2005, pp. 127, 135, 286.

Gary Tinterow and Asher Ethan Miller


The Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 255–62, no. 70, ill. (color).

Joseph Baillio et al. The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, [2005], pp. 61, 74, no. 69, ill.

Uwe Fleckner


Monet und "Camille": Frauenportraits im Impressionismus. Ed. Dorothee Hansen and Wulf Herzogenrath. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bremen. Munich, 2005, p. 45, ill.

Keiko Kawashima. "Madame Lavoisier: The Participation of a Salonière in the Chemical Revolution." Lavoisier in Perspective. Ed. Marco Beretta. Munich, 2005, pp. 79, 90, 93, fig. 1.

Pierre Rosenberg. Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. Milan, 2006, pp. 17, 156–57, 229, ill. (color).

Sébastien Allard


Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760–1830. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2007, p. 311 [French ed., "Portraits publics, portraits privés, 1770–1830," Paris, 2006, p. 344].

Horton A. Johnson. "Revolutionary Instruments: Lavoisier's Tools as Objets d'Art." Chemical Heritage 26 (Spring 2008), pp. 31–35, ill. pp. 30, 32–34 (color, overall and details), discusses the scientific instruments in terms of their visual interest, their mechanisms, and their significance for specific experiments.

Marie-Odile van Caeneghem. "Les Lavoisier par Jacques Louis David: Un tableau prémonitoire." Sparsae, hors série, no 4. (2009), pp. 71–81, ill. in color (on front cover and p. 75).

Jacques Corrocher. "Marie Anne Lavoisier (1758–1836): Une femme de conviction au destin multiple." Sparsae, hors série, no. 4 (2009), p. 63 n. 12, p. 68.

Jean de Rohan Chabot. "Le Château de La Canière, écrin des souvenirs d'Antoine Laurent Lavoisier." Sparsae (2009), p. 12.

Lucile Roche. "Le 'Portrait de M. et Mme Lavoisier' par Jacques-Louis David [1788]: Les antinomies du paraître." Master's thesis, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 2011–12, pp. 5–117, fig. 1.

Kathryn Calley Galitz. "François Gérard: Portraiture, Scandal, and the Art of Power in Napoleonic France." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 71 (Summer 2013), p. 31, fig. 31 (color).

Antoine Schnapper. David, la politique et la révolution. Paris, 2013, p. 53, colorpl. 2.

Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. New Haven, 2015, p. 199, fig. 148 (color).

Paul Lang


Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Ed. Joseph Baillio and Xavier Salmon. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Galeries nationales. Paris, 2015, p. 163, under no. 51.

Eugenio Riccòmini. 1789 e dintorni: L'arte negli anni della rivoluzione francese. Bologna, 2015, p. 66, fig. 61 (color).

Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, pp. 426, 428, no. 309, ill. pp. 300–301, 323, 426 (color, overall and detail).

Yuriko Jackall


America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2017, p. 296.

Pierre Rosenberg


America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2017, p. 3, fig. 2 (color).

Philippe Bordes


America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2017, pp. 105, 117 n. 18.

Xavier Rey


Cézanne portraits. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 2017, p. 181, compares it to Cézanne's "Gustave Geffroy" (1895–96, Musée d'Orsay, Paris).

Meghan K. Roberts. Sentimental Savants: Philosophical Families in Enlightenment France. Chicago, 2017, pp. 36, 38, 63, ill. on cover (color), fig. 1.1.

Jane Merrill. Sex and the Scientist: The Indecent Life of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1753–1814). Jefferson, North Carolina, 2018, p. 156, ill. p. 149.

Neil Jeffares. Minutiae at the Met. March 29, 2019, unpaginated, ill. (color) [https://neiljeffares.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/minutiae-at-the-met/], proposes that the composition was borrowed from an erotic print by Delignon after Lavreince, published in 1782 and titled "Les Offres séduisantes".

Neil Jeffares. "Foreign Legion." Apollo 189 (April 2019), p. 103, fig. 3 (color).

Katharine Baetjer. French Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Early Eighteenth Century through the Revolution. New York, 2019, pp. 314, 317–24, no. 107, ill. pp. 32–33, 318 (color, overall and detail).

Robin Pogrebin. "The Met is Given Hundreds of Artworks." New York Times (November 16, 2019), p. C3 [online ed., "A Trustee Leaves Trove of Old Masters Works to the Met," November 13, 2019; https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/13/arts/design/bequest-met-museum-wrightsman.html].

Matthew C. Hunter. Painting with Fire: Sir Joshua Reynolds, Photography, and the Temporally Evolving Chemical Object. Chicago, 2019, p. 16, colorpl. 2.

The Private Collection of Jayne Wrightsman. Christie's, New York. October 14, 2020, p. 29.

Andrea Bayer, Barbara Drake Boehm, and Daniëlle O. Kisluk-Grosheide. "Princely Aspirations." Making The Met, 1870–2020. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2020, pp. 87, 261 n. 50.

Colin B. Bailey. "Review of Baetjer 2019." Burlington Magazine 163 (May 2021), pp. 470, 473.

Cynthia Saltzman. Plunder: Napoleon's Theft of Veronese's Feast. New York, 2021, pp. 86–87, ill.

Silvia A. Centeno et al. "Discovering the Evolution of Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait of Antoine-Laurent and Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze Lavoisier." Heritage Science 9 (August 30, 2021), figs. 1–9 (color, overall, details, and scientific images) [https://doi.org/10.1186/s40494-021-00551-y], reports on "an analytical approach that combined macro-X-ray fuorescence with the examination and microanalysis of samples by Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry to investigate imprecise indications of changes to the composition observed by microscopy and infrared refectography" allowing for "the visualization of a hidden composition with a high level of detail".

David Pullins, Dorothy Mahon, and Silvia A. Centeno. "The Lavoisiers by David: Technical Findings on Portraiture at the Brink of Revolution." Burlington Magazine 163 (September 2021), pp. 780–91, figs. 1–4 and on cover (color, overall and detail, infrared reflectogram, combined elemental distribution map, and line drawing), publishes technical examinations that reveal significant and previously unknown alterations that transform our understanding of the portrait, the artist, and its sitters. Beneath the austere background, Madame Lavoisier had first been depicted wearing an enormous hat decorated with ribbons and artificial flowers; beneath the red tablecloth was a desk richly decorated in gilt bronze; and the scientific instruments that announce the couple’s place at the birth of modern chemistry were all the result of a later campaign that reworked how the Lavoisiers were presented.

Nancy Kenney. "Progressive Scientists, or High-Flying Elitists? The Met Unlocks a Secret Behind a Famous Jacques-Louis David Portrait." Art Newspaper (September 1, 2021), ill. (color, overall, line drawing, macro X-ray fluorescence mapping, laboratory view, and gallery view) [https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/progressive-scientists-or-high-flying-elitists-the-met-unlocks-a-secret-within-a-renowned-jacques-louis-david-portrait].

Victoria Di Liscia. "David’s Painting of Eminent Scientists Depicted Them as More Elite Than Revolutionary." Hyperallergic (September 1, 2021), ill. (color, overall and combined elemental distribution map) [https://hyperallergic.com/674092/davids-painting-of-eminent-scientists-depicted-them-as-more-elite-than-revolutionary/].

Artnet News. "Conservators at the Met Have Discovered a Hidden Composition Under Jacques Louis David’s Portrait of a Famed Chemist." Artnet News (September 1, 2021), ill. (color, overall, conservation studio view, combined elemental distribution map, and infrared reflectogram) [https://news.artnet.com/art-world/hidden-composition-jacques-louis-david-portrait-chemist-lavoisier-2004720].

Bernadette Arnaud. "Comment le peintre David a escamoté les signes extérieurs de richesse du couple Lavoisier dans son célèbre tableau." Sciences et avenir (September 2, 2021), ill. (color, overall and detail, combined elemental distribution map, infrared reflectogram, and line drawing) [https://www.sciencesetavenir.fr/archeo-paleo/patrimoine/comment-le-peintre-david-a-escamote-les-signes-exterieurs-de-richesse-du-couple-lavoisier-dans-son-celebre-tableau_157233].

Nora McGreevy. "Iconic Portrait of French Chemist and His Wife Once Looked Entirely Different." Smithsonian Magazine (September 3, 2021), ill. (color, overall and details, elemental distribution maps, and infrared reflectogram) [https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/jacques-louis-david-portrait-once-carried-entirely-different-meaning-conservators-find-180978564/].

Philip Ball. "Hidden Details in Iconic Portrait of Lavoisiers Reveal Fears of Coming Revolution." Chemistry World (September 8, 2021), ill. (color, overall, conservation studio view, combined elemental distribution map, and infrared reflectogram) [https://www.chemistryworld.com/opinion/hidden-details-in-iconic-portrait-of-lavoisiers-reveal-fears-of-coming-revolution/4014356.article].

Erin Blakemore. "Tech Uncovers Changes to Portrait of a Chemist-Couple, Victims of Reign of Terror." Washington Post (September 11, 2021), ill. (macro X-ray fluorescence scan) [https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/art-restoration-science-met-lavoisier/2021/09/10/f2100e0a-10dc-11ec-9cb6-bf9351a25799_story.html].

Barthélemy Glama. "Au Met, un tableau de David révèle ses secrets." Journal des arts no. 573 (September 17–30, 2021), p. 5, ill. (color, overall and combined elemental distribution map).

Perrin Stein


Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman. Ed. Perrin Stein. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2022, pp. 113, 169, 274 n. 6.

Daniella Berman


Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman. Ed. Perrin Stein. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2022, pp. 173–74.

Cynthia Saltzman. "Science in the Shadow of the French Revolution." Wall Street Journal (April 29, 2022), ill. (color) [https://www.wsj.com/articles/antoine-laurent-lavoisier-and-marie-anne-pierrette-paulze-lavoisier-jacques-louis-david-french-revolution-guillotine-ancien-regime-bastille-ferme-generale-national-convention-elements-of-chemistry-11651266219].

The frame is from Paris and dates to about 1775–80 (see figs. 1–4 above). This extremely high-quality Louis XVI frame is entirely made of oak. Its mitred corners, crossetted at the top, are secured with metal bolts allowing the large-scale frame to be dismantled for transport. The cavetto at the sight edge rises to running carved ornament of husk and double pearl on stick within a flat fillet. The perimeter of the flat frieze is carved in lotus leaf with acanthus corners. A small cavetto then rises to the twisted acanthus leaf on stick carved ornament which runs before a wider flat fillet at the top edge. Straight sides fall back to an elegant step at the back edge. The cartouche at the crest secures bunches of palm fronds behind it. Its face is carved with three fleurs-de-lis encircled by a chain depicting royal and military motifs and incorporating the letter “H”. It also secures a lush festoon of flowers including roses, daisies, lilacs, jonquils, marigolds, and primroses which sweeps to each side, dropping beneath a floral boss. The cartouche at the base is ornamented with floral sprays and ribbon and flanked by acanthus leaf carving. The inscription has been altered for this painting. The original matte and burnished water gilding on ochre and red bole is worn but retains its superbly recut gesso ground. Frames of this grandeur have been attributed to the royal frame maker Francois Charles Buteux (1732–1788). The original frame for this painting remains in France and was not included in this acquisition.

Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files

This portrait was lent to the Metropolitan Museum by John D. Rockefeller from 1927 until 1929. Dorothy Miller (see memo in archive file) surmises that Rockefeller may have deposited it at the MMA while awaiting the completion of his library at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, now Rockefeller University.

Portraits of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier abound. Artists have paid homage to the scientist in paintings, sculpture, medals, prints, drawings, a commemorative stamp, and even a fresco at the Sorbonne. Many bust-length portraits were based on The Met’s painting by Jacques Louis David. Several illustrations by Madame Lavoisier show the couple in their laboratory. For all of this material, see Marco Baretta, Imaging a Career in Science: The Iconography of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (2001).

This work may not be lent, by terms of its acquisition by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can now connect to the most up-to-date data and images for more than 470,000 artworks in The Met collection. As part of The Met’s Open Access program, the data is available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.

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