Juliette Récamier (1777-1849) was one of the foremost
society beauties of the day. Daughter of a banker from Lyon, in 1793 at
the age of 16 she had married a 43-year-old banker, a business acquaintance
of her father's. Unfortunately, her sitting for the portrait proved problematic
– the model was whimsical, spoilt and constantly late; the artist was irritated
with her and with the lightning of the room, where she sat for him. Although
the portrait reached an advanced stage, it was never finished. “David's
picture of her as a distant yet fragile and vulnerable young woman did
not match Mme Récamier’s image of herself as a confident and sophisticated
society figure, and so she was to turn instead to David's pupil Gérard
to satisfy her wishes. David finally informed her: “Madame, ladies have
their caprices; so do painters. Allow me satisfy mine; I shall keep your
portrait in its present state.” Though attempts were made to bring about
a reconciliation, it never occurred.”
See: Jacques-Louis David. Portrait of Mme Récamier.
François-Pascal-Simon Gérard. Portrait of Juliette Recamier.
David. by Simon Lee. Phaidon. 1999.