Antoinette Cécile Hortense Haudebourt-Lescot achieved a degree of recognition in her lifetime that was highly unusual for female artists. Her paintings were so popular that they were copied and disseminated in numerous engravings. Although many of the original works no longer exist, the prints testify to her widespread fame and the breadth of her production.
Born in Paris, Haudebourt-Lescot began studying at age seven with the history painter Guillaume Guillon Lethière, who in 1807 was appointed director of the Académie de France in Rome. The next year, the budding artist followed her instructor to Italy. She remained there for eight years, observing the popular customs and sketching the colorful peasant clothing that appears in many of her paintings. Haudebourt-Lescot’s depictions of peasants and peasant life reflected a continental-wide trend to portray an unspoiled past of innocence and simplicity at a time when industrialization and urbanization were quickly supplanting the rural agricultural past.
Whereas travel to Italy to study and copy art was considered essential for male artists, Haudebourt-Lescot’s sojourn in Italy was highly unusual even for a woman who aspired to professionalism. Unlike other artists, she seems to have been less interested in emulating heroic works of the past. Haudebourt-Lescot has been called the inventor of Italian genre themes that focus on the daily lives of women.
Living in Italy did not impede her desire to establish herself in the highly competitive Parisian art world. From Rome she submitted eight scenes of Italian life to the 1810 Paris Salon, in which she received a second-class medal. Haudebourt-Lescot was the only female artist François Joseph Heim included in his monumental depiction of Charles X awarding medals to artists for the Salon of 1824.
Returning to Paris in 1816, she married the architect Louis-Pierre Haudebourt in 1820. Over the next three decades—her productivity not hindered by marriage—the artist exhibited more than one hundred paintings at the Salon, ranging from works based on popular literature and historical genre scenes to portraits and depictions of domesticity. Haudebourt-Lescot’s fame became such that the artist was appointed painter to the Duchesse de Berry and she received several commissions from the French Government.
First-class Medal, Le Salon, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (1828)
Second-class Medal, Le Salon, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (1810)
Member, Academy of San Luca, Rome, Italy (ca. 1810)