Constance Mayer


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(1775–1821). French painter. Born in Paris, the daughter of a customs officer, Mayer began painting as an amateur but studied under J.- B. Greuze, whose influence was pervasive, and briefly under David in 1801. She specialized in portraits and genre but revealed ambitions to be a history painter in her self-assertive yet filial Self-Portrait with Artist's Father: He Points to a Bust of Raphael, Inviting Her to Take This Celebrated Painter as a Model (1801; Hartford, Conn., Wadsworth Atheneum). In 1802 she became a pupil of Prud'hon and, following his wife's breakdown in 1803, his housekeeper and collaborator. Their joint works, exhibited either under her name or his, depending on who finished the painting, have caused subsequent confusion. The Sleep of Venus and Cupid, Disturbed by Zephyrs (1806; London, Wallace Coll.), for example, was commissioned from her and exhibited as by her in 1806, but acquired by Wallace as by Prud'hon. Her later genre paintings are sentimental, in the manner of Greuze, but increasingly melancholy. Despite official recognition she committed suicide in 1821.

From The Oxford Companion to Western Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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