December 21 1744 - February 28 1818
Anne Vallayer-Coster, Self-Portrait, ca. 1790-1792. Pastel and colored pencil affixed to cardboard. 18 1/8 x 15 inches (46 x 38 cm). Château de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles, France. (c) Photo RMN/Frank Raux
Place of Birth:
an vah-lah-yai(r) koh-stai(r)
Drawings and prints, Painting
Court Artist, Engraver, Miniaturist, Painter, Portraitist, Printmaker, Still life Painter
Anne Vallayer-Coster was born in Paris in 1744. Her mother painted miniatures and her father Joseph Vallayer was a master goldsmith who opened his Paris studio in 1757 where he held the Royal Privilege for production of military medals. It is believed that his elevated status and aristocratic patronage helped the young Vallayer-Coster overcome some of the restraints that hindered many women artists in the eighteenth century. In 1770, at the young age of twenty-six, Vallayer-Coster was elected into the Académie Royale by a unanimous vote, a remarkable sign of approval as only four women artists were admitted to the Académie at a time. Her submission of two allegorical still lifes, Allegory of the Arts
and Instruments of Music
were highly praised for their naturalism and detail. She exhibited in the Salon regularly from 1771 until 1817 showing still life paintings of bowls of fruit, dead game, shells, and flowers.
In 1780 she was named Painter to the Queen. With the patronage of Marie Antoinette, Vallayer-Coster achieved great success and cultivated an aristocratic clientele. She continued painting a broad range of subjects and themes including animals, trompe-l’oeil bas reliefs, miniatures, and full-sized portraits which mirrored the opulence of French aristocracy before the Revolution. In 1781, Vallayer-Coster married attorney and Parliament member Jean-Pierre-Silvestre Coster, their marriage formally witnessed by the Queen.
Because of her success as a female artist, Vallayer-Coster was often compared to her female contemporaries including Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun who were more widely praised as portraitists. When critics made scathing comparisons of these artists’ portraits at the Salon of 1785, Vallayer-Coster quit painting portraits and instead focused on still lifes. Due to her close association with Marie Antoinette, her career suffered during the French Revolution. She continued exhibiting at the Salon, however, until the year before her death.
Although her popularity waned after her death, interest in Vallayer-Coster was rekindled in the late nineteenth century. Now recognized for her immense skill and artistic contribution, Vallayer-Coster’s paintings are exhibited widely in collections throughout the world.
daughter of Joseph Vallayer
student of Joseph Venet
student of Madeleine Françoise Basseporte
friend of Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre
Painter to the Queen (Marie Antoinette), Court of Louis XVI, Versailles, France (1780)
Elected Member, Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Paris, France (1770)
Le Salon, Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Paris, France (1771)