The Harp Lesson
Jean Antoine Théodore Giroust ( French, 1753 - 1817 )
During a music lesson, fourteen-year-old Louise Marie Adelaïde Eugénie de Bourbon d’Orléans, daughter of the Duc d’Orléans, plays a duet with her governess, Madame de Genlis. The other figure in this triple portrait is her English teacher, Mademoiselle Paméla, who turns pages at the music stand. In the background of this neoclassical interior is a bronze statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom. She wears a Phrygian bonnet and holds a pike, which were symbols of the French Revolution. This imagery served a political purpose by distancing the Duc d’Orléans from the Bourbon monarchy in an attempt to avoid death by the guillotine, a fate suffered by many French nobles during the Revolution. By depicting the musical trio’s intelligence, talent, and dedication, the painter, Jean Antoine Théodore Giroust, fashioned the Duc d’Orléans and his family as supporters of liberal, Enlightenment values.
Laura Sevelis, DMA label copy, 2015