Our Art / Marie Denise Villers
Born in Paris and a part of France’s high society, Villers (1774–1821) was a painter who specialized in portraits. She was introduced to the Paris Salons, where the world’s best academic art premiered, where she met artists and she began to take painting lessons with Jacques-Louis David, a great realist painter of the time. Her most famous painting, “Portrait of Charlotte du Val d'Ognes (1801)” has been attributed to various artists and under a variety of titles through its long history. Originally, the portrait was in the du Val d'Ognes family for generations, where it had been attributed to Jacques-Louis David. When the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought the painting in 1917, it was known as "the New York David." However, it was hypothesized in 1951 that it was actually painted by a "little known woman."For decades afterwards, it was stripped of its title and artist, as per the Met's policy. In 1995, historians successfully argued that Villers painted the work and furthermore that “Young Woman Drawing” is in fact a self-portrait of the artist Villers herself.