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Vallayer-Coster, Anne (1744–1818)

Vallayer-Coster, Anne (1744–1818)

French still-life painter who was the first woman to become a member of France's Royal Academy. Name variations: Anna Vallayer-Coster. Born Anne Vallayer in France in 1744; died in 1818; daughter of a goldsmith; married Jean Pierre Coster (a lawyer), in 1781.

Anne Vallayer was born in 1744 and grew up in Gobelins, France, the daughter of a goldsmith who worked for the local tapestry factory. When she was ten, the family moved to Paris where her father opened his own shop. Upon his death, her mother continued to run the Paris workshop.

Little is known of the art training or earliest work of Anne Vallayer-Coster. Though Gabriel de Saint-Aubin was a family friend, it is doubtful that he ever became her teacher, and her first known painting was a portrait executed in 1762. Eight years later, in 1770, the 26-year-old Anne submitted her Allegory of the Visual Arts and Allegory of Music (now in the Louvre, Paris) to the Académie Royale and was unanimously elected a member. Denis Diderot admired her work, as did Royal Academy voting member Jean Georges Wille who noted: "I was absolutely enchanted by the talent of the likeable person, whom I saw for the first time and whose talent is truly that of a man perfected in this genre of painting representing still life."

Primarily a still-life painter greatly admired in her day, Vallayer-Coster was both versatile and resourceful and had many influential patrons; some 450 works are attributed to her brush, including portraits of flower arrangements, table settings, musical instruments, trophies, tureens of soup, kitchen utensils, tea services, bread, wine, hams, cheese, lobsters, and plums in a basket—all in simple or elaborate configurations. Marie Antoinette saw to it that Vallayer-Coster was assigned an apartment in the Louvre. Unlike Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun , Vallayer-Coster did not leave Paris during the upheavals of the French Revolution, despite her royal connections, but she did very little painting after 1800.

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