Portrait of Marie Madelaine de Vignerod
Philippe De Champaigne (1602-1674)
17th century, Oil on canvas
This painting is the official portrait of a French noblewoman: it is a likeness of the niece of Cardinal de Richelieu, the daughter of his sister Françoise Du Plessis and René de Vignerod, who married the Marquis de Combalet, but became a widow shortly afterwards. A haughty, cultured woman and patron of literature, she was lady-in-waiting to Marie de' Medici beginning in 1625, a role from which she was relieved by the queen herself due to disagreements with Richelieu, who gave her the duchy of Aiguillon. It is said that she was very close to her powerful cardinal uncle, and she inherited a part of his property upon his death, including the Petit Luxembourg and the Château de Rueil; from then on, she chose to devote herself to good causes. This portrait presents an image of the strong-willed duchess that corresponds to what is known of her character from the facts of her life: the direct, attentive gaze and erect posture convey a strong temperament, which is undiminished by the delicate gesture of handing a treat to her dog. The great artist who executed this portrait was Philippe de Champaigne, who also painted the extraordinary Triple Portrait of Richelieu, whom he portrayed several times.