Anne Vallayer-Coster

Portrait of a Violinist

  • Anne Vallayer-Coster (French, 1744–1818)
  • Oil on canvas, 116 x 96 cm
  • 1773
  • Nationalmuseum, Stockholm 

The Artist

Anne Vallayer-Coster was the second of four daughters born to her mother, a painter of miniatures; and her father, a goldsmith. Like other women artists of the time, she received training from her father, Joseph Vallayer. But she had other mentors as well, including the botanical specialist Madeleine Françoise Basseporte, and the celebrated marine painter Joseph Vernet.

Vallayer-Coster was elected to the French academy of art in 1770, at the age of just 26. This was a remarkable accomplishment; she was one of only four women accepted into the Académie before the French Revolution.

The artist, who in 1781 married Jean-Pierre-Silvester Coster, specialized primarily in floral painting. Thanks to her effective use of color and skillful illusionism, her still lifes were much in demand, though as a genre, still lifes ranked relatively low in the subject matter hierarchy of the time. Innovatively, Vallayer-Coster deliberately incorporated objects more usually associated with historical painting into her paintings. She also painted portraits, which led to commissions from the king’s aunts and from Queen Marie Antoinette.

Today, many Anne Vallayer-Coster paintings are in private hands, but quite a few of her works are to be found in public collections. These include the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Dallas Art Museum, the Palace of Versailles, the Kimbell Art Museum, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne, Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the National Gallery of Canada, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Toledo Art Museum, and the Bowes Museum.

Learn more about Vallayer-Coster’s painting Portrait of a Violinist: Nationalmuseum

Current and past exhibitions featuring Anne Vallayer-Coster:

Making Her Mark: A History of Women Artists in Europe, 1400–1800 at the Art Gallery of Ontario from March 30–July 1, 2024. The show was on previously (October 1, 2023–January 7, 2024) at the Baltimore Museum of Art

In 2002–3, the Dallas Museum of Art organized the exhibition “Anne Vallayer-Coster: Painter to the Court of Marie-Antoinette.” Other venues for the show included the National Gallery of Art (Washington DC), the Frick Collection, and the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Nancy. Exhibition


Books about Anne Vallayer-Coster


Anne Vallayer-Coster: Painter to the Court of Marie Antoinette, edited by Eik Kahng and Marianne Roland Michel; with contributions by Colin B. Bailey, Claire Barry, Laurent Hugues, and Melissa Hyde

Learn more online about Anne Vallayer-Coster:

Guest post on the Art Herstory blog:

Seductive Surfaces: Anne Vallayer-Coster’s Vase of Flowers and Conch Shell at the Met, by Dr. Kelsey Brosnan

WBUR / NPR’s Here and Now: Explore >

Neil Jeffares’ Dictionary of pastellists before 1800: Explore >

A Space of Their Own: Explore >

The Kimbell Art Museum: Explore > 

National Museum of Women in the Arts: Explore > 

A Scholarly Skater Blog: Explore > 

Rutgers Art Review: Explore >















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