Germaine de Staël and the narrative(s) of her alter-ego Corinne: The example of Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s portrait

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The Swiss/French writer and political thinker Germaine de Staël (1766–1817) was the daughter of Mme Necker and M. Necker, both of Swiss origin and Protestants. Before the revolution her father had been minister of finance and her mother used to host of one most important salon in Paris. Mme de Staël, as she was called after the marriage in 1786 with the Swedish ambassador to France, Carl-Magnus de Staël von Holstein, was thus born into one of the most illustrious circles of Parisian cultural and political elite. Germaine’s political ideas and background made her a target for Napoleon’s animosity. This resentment between the two affected her self-perception, which was based on her idea of representing the French culture, or even the genius of the Parisian salon. However, that self-image might have been a ‘mask’ hiding de Staël’s true longings, namely to be loved and appreciated as a person and woman, at the time incompatible with being a ‘genius’, a concept reserved only for men. Germaine never stopped struggling for merging the two poles of her personality, and the creation of an alter-ego, the ‘genius’ Corinne, might have been an attempt to solve this issue. Nevertheless, 1807 Germaine de Staël published an autobiographical novel with the title Corinne, or Italy. But ultimately, the normative idea of womanhood seemed to have been a too hard nut to crack, even for Germaine. The latter is a question that this chapter aims at elucidating, by a cultural semiotic analyse of ÉlisabethVigée-Lebrun’s (1755-1842) portrait Portait of Mme de Staël as Corinne on Cap Misenum (1808-1809). In the portrait two narratives, or discourses, seem to meet and compete about what it is to be a woman, and to be a genius. Vigée-Lebrun had also been Marie-Antoinette’s favorite portraitist


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Kulturstudier


  • Germaine de Staël, Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Cultural semiotics, Cognition, Art history, Literature, French cultural history, Gender
Titel på värdpublikationMatters of Telling
Undertitel på gästpublikationThe Impulse of the Story
RedaktörerCarlo Comanducci, Alex Wilkinson
FörlagBrill Academic Publishers
ISBN (tryckt)978-90-04-38768-3
StatusPublished - 2019
Peer review utfördJa


NamnAt the Interface / Probing the Boundaries
ISSN (tryckt)1570-7113