PORTRAIT D'UNE NÉGRESSE was Painted by MARIE-GUILLEMINE BENOIST six years after the abolition of slavery, this picture became a symbol for the emancipation of women and black people. The picture was acquired by Louis XVIII for France in 1818, and now is part of the collection of Musée du Louvre.

Image: MARIE-GUILLEMINE BENOIST (France 1768-1826) was a neoclassical, historical and genre painter.

  Her training as an artist began in 1781 under ÉLISABETH VIGÉE LE BRUN(image below), and she entered Jacques-Louis David's atelier in 1786 along with her sister Marie-Élisabeth Laville-Leroux.

In 1791 she exhibited for the first time in the Salon de Paris. One of her paintings of this period, L'Innocence entre la vertu et le vice, is similarly mythological and reveals her feminist interests—in this picture, vice is represented by a man, although it was traditionally represented by a woman. In 1793, she married the lawyer Pierre-Vincent Benoist.

  In 1800, she exhibited Portrait d'une négresse in the Salon. An important commission for a full-length portrait of Napoléon Bonaparte—Premier Consul Français in this period—was awarded to her in 1803. This portrait was to be sent to the city of Ghent, newly ceded to France by the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801. Other honors came to her; she was awarded a Gold Medal in the Salon of 1804, and received a governmental allowance. During this time she opened an atelier for the artistic training of women.

Her career was harmed by political developments, however, when her husband, the supporter of royalist causes, Count Benoist, was nominated in the Conseil d'État during the post-1814 Bourbon Restoration. Despite being at the height of her popularity, she chose to relinquish her career, both in painting and pursuing women's causes, due in part to her devoir de réserve or "tactful withdrawal" in English, in the face of the growing wave of conservatism in European society.