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New acquisition: Anne Vallayer-Coster’s painting of a female violinist

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New acquisition: Anne Vallayer-Coster’s painting of a female violinist

Anne Vallayer-Coster’s Portrait of a Violinist is the latest addition to Nationalmuseum’s collection of 18th-century French painting. Considered one of the artist’s masterpieces, this genre work is believed to portray one of her sisters. Painted in 1773, three years after Vallayer was elected to the French academy of art, the work has many artistic virtues.

Anne Vallayer (1744–1818) was elected to the French academy of art at the age of just 26. This was a remarkable event at the time, given the artist’s youth and the fact that she was a woman in a male-dominated institution, and an unmarried woman at that. There is no indication that Vallayer enjoyed royal patronage, but she did not lack for mentors in the ranks of the academy. Claude-Joseph Vernet, a landscape painter, had been her teacher. It was as a painter of still lifes that she was elected to the academy. Nationalmuseum already has two such works in its collection: Still Life with Brioche, Fruit and Vegetables (1775) and the miniature Floral Still Life (undated).

Vallayer, who in 1781 married Jean-Pierre-Silvester Coster, a successful lawyer, specialized primarily in floral painting. Thanks to her effective use of colour and skilful illusionism, her still lifes were much in demand, but ranked relatively low in the subject matter hierarchy of the time. Vallayer-Coster therefore tried to expand her range of motifs by deliberately incorporating objects more usually associated with historical painting. In the hope of attracting royal clients, she also painted portraits, which led to commissions from the king’s aunts and from Queen Marie Antoinette.

Despite her ambition of expanding her range of motifs, Vallayer-Coster painted very few portraits, and many of those that she did had a direct personal connection. In the light of this fact and a certain resemblance, researchers have suggested that Portrait of a Violinist is a genre painting of one of the artist’s three sisters, Madeleine, Elisabeth or Simone. It is not known whether any of them really did play the violin, but what is clear is that Vallayer-Coster had an extraordinary gift for depicting musical instruments, for instance. A sense of calm and contemplation permeates the self-contained composition. Even the broken strings contribute to the visual excellence of the image, while also raising questions as to their significance. Portrait of a Violinist undoubtedly ranks among the artist’s foremost works. Nationalmuseum’s purchase of this work has been made possible by a generous donation from the Wiros Fund. Nationalmuseum has no budget of its own for new acquisitions, but relies on gifting and financial support from private funds and foundations to enhance its collections of fine art and craft.

Press contacts
Magnus Olausson, Head of Collections and Research
magnus.olausson@nationalmuseum.se, +46 8 5195 4371
Hanna Tottmar, Press Officer
hanna.tottmar@nationalmuseum.se, +46 767 234632

Caption
Anne Vallayer-Coster, Portrait of a Violinist, 1773. Photo: Cecilia Heisser/Nationalmuseum.

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Nationalmuseum is Sweden’s premier museum of art and design. The collections comprise older paintings, sculpture, drawings and graphic art, and applied art and design up to the present day. The museum building is currently under renovation and scheduled to open again in 2018. In the meantime, the museum will continue its activities through collaborations both in Sweden and abroad as well as temporary exhibitions at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, Fredsgatan 12 and Nationalmuseum Design at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in Stockholm. Nationalmuseum collaborates with Svenska Dagbladet, FCB Fältman & Malmén and Grand Hôtel Stockholm. For more information visit www.nationalmuseum.se

Press contacts

Head of Press

Head of Press

Press contact Hanna Tottmar +46 (0)8 5195 4400

Welcome to Nationalmuseum Sweden!

Nationalmuseum is Sweden’s museum of art and design. The collections include paintings, sculpture, drawings and graphic art from the 16th century up to the beginning of the 20th century and the collection of applied art and design up to the present day. The total amount of objects is around 700,000. The museum building was closed for five years for an extensive renovation and reopened in autumn 2018.

The emphasis of the collection of paintings is on Swedish 18th and 19th century painting. Dutch painting from the 17th century is also well represented, and the French 18th century collection is regarded as one of the best in the world. The works are made by artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Boucher, Watteau, Renoir and Degas as well as Swedish artists such as Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson, Ernst Josephson and Carl Fredrik Hill.

The collection of applied art and design consists of objects such as ceramics, textiles, glass and precious and non-precious metals as well as furniture and books etc. The collection of prints and drawings comprises works by Rembrandt, Watteau, Manet, Sergel, Carl Larsson, Carl Fredrik Hill and Ernst Josephson. Central are the 2,000 master drawings that Carl Gustaf Tessin acquired during his tour of duty as Sweden's ambassador to France in the 18th century.

Art and objects from Nationalmuseum’s collections can also be seen at several royal palaces such as Gripsholm, Drottningholm, Strömsholm, Rosersberg and Ulriksdal as well as in the Swedish Institute in Paris. The museum administers the Swedish National Portrait Gallery at Gripsholm Castle, the world’s oldest national portrait gallery and the Gustavsberg collection with approximately 45,000 objects manufactured at the Gustavsberg Porcelain Factory. Nationalmuseum also curates exhibitions at Nationalmuseum Jamtli and the Gustavsberg Porcelain Museum.

Nationalmuseum is a government authority with a task to promote art, interest in art and knowledge of art and that falls within the remit of the Swedish Ministry of Culture. The responsibility is to preserve and make art accessible and provide knowledge.