Saturday, 26 March 2016

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (EII): Personality Type Analysis

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun was a French painter, active from the late 18th to the first half of the 19th century, mainly in her native France but also in Russia, Italy, Prussia and England. She left a legacy of over 800 works, mostly portraits. Her best-known works are perhaps her portraits of Queen Marie Antoinette. She left a detailed description of her life and career in her memoirs, which she wrote in the 1830s, and which provide plenty of evidence with which to type her.

Louise Élisabeth showed an aptitude for drawing and painting already in her childhood, which was encouraged by her father, himself a painter. As a teenager she was already painting portraits professionally, increasingly  attracting attention in Paris and eventually being commissioned by the Queen, Marie Antoinette, to paint several portraits of her and of her children. Although herself of a family of relatively modest means, her easy access to the Versailles court and the favor she received from the king and queen led her to flee France in 1789, afraid of being seen as a high-profile royalist (already receiving threats on the street, as she described).

She had (reluctantly, as she said) married Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, an artist and art dealer, with whom she had a daughter, Julie. She fled France with Julie while her husband remained behind.

Louise Élisabeth moved first to Rome, then to Vienna, and then to the court of Catherine the Great in St Petersburg, remaining in Russia throughout the short reign of her son Paul and the beginning of the reign of Alexander I. By then, in 1801, after the Terror and in the more stable early years of Napoleon Bonaparte's government, she finally felt that it was safe to return to France.

She was fortunate in being able to move easily between countries, at that time, since her fame, talent, and connections always assured her a warm welcome, protection, and employment as a painter, whenever she went. That was important especially as she left France in 1789 with very little money.

Not feeling quite at home in Paris, any more after returning from Russia, and pained by the memory of several acquaintances who had been guillotined during the Terror, she spent a few years in England and Switzerland, before returning definitely to France where she remained until her death at 86.

Vigée Le Brun stated at the start of her memoirs that she was writing them at the request of a friend, but that she'd also find it easy since her memories of all the people she had known (and who were now dead) were always around her and that such memories kept her company, so to speak. Her memoirs are a straightforward narration of the events in her life in strict chronological order, but centered on the individuals she knew and the relationships she had with them. From the memoirs, her main way of looking at the world, and her life, was very clearly through her relationships with individuals. That already points to R as a very strong function.

Although a key eyewitness to important historical events, like the beginning of the French Revolution and events surrounding the murder of the Tsar Paul, Louise Élisabeth was not interested in them as historical events, even as she described how she experienced them. Indeed, she describes that when she first heard in Italy the news of the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, she immediately refused to hear or read anything about the circumstances leading to such events, a stance she kept for decades. She was obviously a royalist in the sense that she missed pre-revolutionary France and was appalled by the Terror, but at no point does she focus on the larger events or trends in those periods. It is difficult, or rather impossible, to perceive any kind of ideology or political analysis in her views of historical events apart from how they affected her personally and individuals she was attached to. That suggests R as much stronger than L.

When describing individuals, she focuses not only on their characters and her relationships but on their physical appearance. After that, her main focus in her memoirs is in physical descriptions of the places she was visiting and of details of the daily life there. This is to be expected from a painter but in any case it shows a focus on S and perhaps blocked with P.

Also when describing individuals, she - mostly - tries to focus on those of whom she has pleasant memories and tries to avoid digressing at length people whom she disliked or who gave her painful or ambiguous feelings. For instance, she gives very little information on her husband, whom she - as she said - married reluctantly. From the little she says about him, it is clear that although he could be protective of her during crises and was by no means cruel or violent to her, he also spent pretty much all the money she earned through her work, either investing it unwisely or in gambling. So, not being able to say much good about him but obviously not thinking that she could or should bash him too much, she says little, even as she - very obviously - clearly preferred to have married someone who was wiser and fairer in financial matters. She is far more willing to say negative things about her stepfather, whom she "detested" and found "odious", but, again, she mentions him only when she has to.

This already suggests a more Delta (R+I) approach to relationships than Gamma (R+F). She refuses to pretend to have a good opinion of individuals when she clearly does not'; but, overwhelmingly, her preferred stance is to focus on people positively if possible. For instance, she observed closely Tsar Paul of Russia. She reports how everyone in St. Petersburg was terrified of him, including herself, due to his tyrannical behaviour, but she also points out how he was always kind and courteous to her personally.

A subject that is mostly missing in her memoirs is the "nuts and bolts" of her life, especially her financial situation. She mentions how, in France, her husband would pocket (and spend) most of what she earned, but, at the same time, she admits that that - mostly - did not bother her as her own tastes and lifestyle were extremely low-cost and she knew she could always earn money through her work, even if that meant moving between countries. Except when she was getting older and starting to worry about retirement, throughout her life she showed little concern with accumulating wealth. That shows, again, the more Delta approach to P and S matters rather than the P and F Gamma approach. There is overall very little focus on P in her memoirs, except in the sense that she tries to describe what was really happening separately from how she felt about it.

Finally, Louise Élisabeth was in the unique position of a person who moved easily among individuals of the highest social status and wealth, including royalty, while herself being of a rather modest social status. She seemed to be mostly unaware of, or unconcerned with that, although sometimes afraid of monarchs themselves. Only once does she remark how an aristocratic lady sitting near her decided to completely ignore her. This suggests a very low focus on F.

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun shows the Delta values of R, I, S and P while showing little inclination for F and L. The most obvious element in her memoirs is R coupled with I, followed by S. Everything fits R1, I2, S6, F4 and P5. That is, an EII.

Recommended reading and sources: her memoirs are available online, also in (possibly incomplete) English translation.

To learn more about EII, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment