The image of a woman of wit and learning
Portraits of women were beginning to change and become more varied in the mid-eighteenth century. One of the new styles to emerge was the portrait of the femme d’esprit—a woman of culture and learning.
In his portrait of Madame d’Epinay, Jean-Etienne Liotard focused on his sitter’s social persona and intellectual nature, depicting her deep in thought with an open book in her hand.
Madame d’Epinay was a woman of letters who published a treatise on the education of women called Les Conversations avec Emilie (Conversations with Emilie), in response to the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Guests at her Paris salon included many philosophers, scholars, artists and writers such as Rousseau, Grimm, Diderot and d’Alembert.