Listening to Art

09.10: Jacques-Louis David, Portrait of Madame de Verninac

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume nine, number ten: Portrait of Madame de Verninac by Jacques-Louis David.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

The subject of this portrait, Henriette de Verninac, turned nineteen in 1799, when it was finished. In that year her brother, the artist Eugène Delacroix, whose works we heard in volume five numbers seven, eight, nine and ten, turned one year old. On 05 March 1857, Delacroix, who now owned the portrait, wrote in his Journal comparing it to a painting by Théodore Géricault. I quote from the Phaidon Press edition, edited by Hubert Wellington and translated by Lucy Norton.

You can see in it everything that David has always lacked, that power of the picturesque, that vigorousness and daring, which is to painting what the vis comica is to the art of theatre. David’s painting is all too even, the head is no more interesting than the draperies or the seat.

His complete subjection to the posed model is one of the causes of this coldness, but it would be more reasonable to think that the coldness lay in his own nature. It was impossible for him to discover anything beyond what was offered to him through the imperfect medium of the little piece of nature before his eyes, and he seems to have been satisfied when he had imitated it well. His audacity consisted wholly in placing beside it fragments cast from the Antique, such as a foot, or a leg, and in bringing his living model as near as possible to the ready-made ideal of beauty displayed by the plaster cast.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 112 cm wide by 145 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Portrait of Madame de Verninac by Jacques-Louis David, recorded at the Louvre, in Paris, on 18 July 2019.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Portrait of Madame de Verninac by Jacques-Louis David. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Delacroix, Eugène. The Journal of Eugène Delacroix. 3rd ed. Edited by Hubert Wellington. Translated by Lucy Norton. London: Phaidon Press, 2001.

Denton, William. “Eugène Delacroix, The Death of Sardanapalus.” Listening to Art 05, no. 07 (13 August 2019).

⸻. “Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People.” Listening to Art 05, no. 08 (01 September 2019).

⸻. “Eugène Delacroix, Street in Meknes.” Listening to Art 05, no. 09 (13 September 2019).

⸻. “Eugène Delacroix, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Heliodorus Driven from the Temple.” Listening to Art 05, no. 10 (01 October 2019).

Musée du Louvre. “Madame Raymond de Verninac, née Henriette Delacroix (1780-1827), soeur d’Eugène Delacroix.” Site officiel du musée du Louvre.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Eugène Delacroix,”ène_Delacroix.

⸻, s.v. “Henriette de Verninac,”

⸻, s.v. “Jacques-Louis David,”