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Naples—Lady Hamilton—Marie Caroline, Queen of Naples—Mesdames de France—Their escape—Les chemises de Marat—Rome—Terrible news from France—Venice—Turin—The Comtesse de Provence—The 10th August—The Refugees—Milan—Vienna—Delightful society—Prince von Kaunitz—Life at Vienna.
Capital letter I

IN the autumn of 1790 Lisette went to Naples, with which she was enchanted. She took a house on the Chiaja, looking across the bay to Capri and close to the Russian Embassy. The Ambassador, Count Scawronski, called immediately and begged her to breakfast and dine always at his house, where, although not accepting this invitation, she spent nearly all her evenings. She painted his wife, and, after her, Emma Harte, then the mistress of Sir William Hamilton, as a bacchante, lying on the sea-shore with her splendid chestnut hair falling loosely about her in masses sufficient to cover her. Sir William Hamilton, who was exceedingly avaricious, paid her a hundred louis for the picture, and afterwards sold it in London for three hundred guineas. Later on, Mme. Le Brun, having painted her as a Sybil for the Duc de Brissac after she became Lady Hamilton, copied the head and gave it to Sir William, who sold that also!


Another time she made a charcoal sketch of two heads on the door of a summer-house by the sea, lent to her by Sir William Hamilton. Years afterwards to her astonishment she saw them in England. He had cut them out of the door and sold them to Lord Warwick!

Mme. Le Brun found Lady Hamilton, as she became shortly afterwards—though extraordinarily beautiful—ignorant, ill-dressed, without esprit or conversation, ill-natured, and spiteful in her way of talking about other people, the only topic she seemed capable of discussing. She herself enjoyed Naples, as she did every other pleasant episode in her delightful life. From the loggia opening out of her bedroom she looked down into an orange garden; from her windows she could see constantly some picturesque or beautiful scene. The costumes of the washerwomen who gathered round the fountain, peasant girls dancing the tarantella, the fiery torches of the fishermen scattered over the bay at night, all the life and colour and incident of southern life spread like a panorama before her; and often she would go out in a boat by moonlight or starlight upon the calm sea, looking back upon the town rising like an amphitheatre from the water’s edge.

She found as usual plenty of friends, the Princesse Joseph de Monaco and Duchesse de Fleury amongst others, and the Baron de Talleyrand, then French Ambassador. They made excursions to Vesuvius, Pompei, Capri, Ischia, and all the lovely places in the neighbourhood.

One day the Baron de Talleyrand announced that [106] the Queen wished her to paint the portraits of her two eldest daughters, whose marriages she was just going to Vienna to arrange. [39]

Lisette liked the Queen of Naples much better than her elder sister, the Infanta of Parma. Though less beautiful than her younger sister, Marie Antoinette, yet she bore a strong resemblance to her, and had the remains of great beauty.

Mme. Le Brun describes her as affectionate, simple, and royally generous. Hearing that the French Ambassador to Venice, M. de Bombelle, was the only one who refused to sign the Constitution, thereby reducing himself and his family to poverty; she wrote to him that all sovereigns owed a debt of gratitude to faithful subjects, and gave him a pension of twelve thousand francs. Two of his sons became Austrian ministers at Turin and Berne, another was Grand-Master of the household of Marie Louise.

The most infamous calumnies were circulated about Marie Caroline when Napoleon wanted her kingdom for Caroline Murat; but she had a brave, strong character and plenty of brains. The government was carried on by her, for the King could or would do nothing but loiter about at Caserta.

Lisette painted the two Princesses and the Prince Royal before returning to Rome, where she had no sooner arrived than she had to go back to Naples to paint the Queen.

She had had great success in the number of important pictures she painted at Naples; and her [107] career at Rome was equally prosperous. She had plenty of money now, and nobody to meddle with it, and if it had not been for the constant anxiety about France she would have been perfectly happy. But French news was difficult to get and bad when it was obtained.
E. H. Bearne

Mesdames de France, the two last remaining daughters of Louis XV., arrived in Rome and at once sent for Mme. Le Brun, who was delighted to see them again. They had with great difficulty succeeded in getting away, and had been most anxious to take their niece, Madame Elizabeth, with them. In vain they entreated her to come, she persisted in staying with the King and Queen, and sacrificed her life in so doing.

Mesdames Adéla?de and Victoire set off early in 1791. Their whole journey was a perpetual danger. After getting their passports signed with difficulty by the Commune, they were denounced at Sèvres by a maid-servant, stopped by the Jacobins and accused of being concerned in plots and of taking money out of the country, and detained for a fortnight, when they managed to get permission to go on, and left at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night, arriving on Sunday morning at Fontainebleau, where they were again stopped and threatened by the mob, who were just going to be joined by the gardes nationaux when a hundred Chasseurs de Lorraine, luckily quartered there, charged the mob, opened the gates, and passed the carriages on. At Arnay-le-Duc they were detained for eleven days, and only allowed to proceed when the Comte de Narbonne appeared with a permission extorted by [108] Mirabeau from the revolutionary government at Paris.

They hurried away just in time, crossed the Mont Cenis, which was covered with snow, and at the foot of which they were met by their nephew, the Comte d’Artois. The King of Sardinia, husband of their niece, [40] the eldest sister of Louis XVI. had sent four hundred soldiers to clear away the snow, and escorted by the Comte d’Artois they arrived safely at Turin where all the noblesse were assembled to receive them at the entrance of the royal palace. They arrived at Rome in April.

The disgraceful proceedings and cowardly, preposterous fear of two old ladies, which had made the radical government contemptible and ridiculous, caused the following absurd story to be published in a French newspaper:—

“Les chemises de Marat, ou l’arrestation de Mesdames, tantes du Roi à Arnay-le-Duc.

“Marat avait dit dans un journal que les chemises de Mesdames lui appartenaient. Les patriotes de province crurent de bonne foi que Mesdames avaient emporté les chemises de Marat, et les habitants d’Arnay-ci-devant-le-duc sachant qu’elles devaient passer par là, decidèrent qu’il fallait les arrêter pour leur, faire rendre les chemises qu’elles avaient voleés.... On les fait descendre de voiture et les officiers municipales avec leurs habits noirs, leur gravité, leurs écharpes, leur civism et leurs perruques, disent à Mesdames:


“(Air: ‘Rendez-moi mon écuelle de bois.’)
“Donnez-nous les chemises
à Marat,
Donnez-nous les chemises;
Nous savons à n’en douter pas
Que vous les avez prises.

“Mme. Adéla?de, étonnée d’un tel propos répond sur le même air:
“Je n’ai point les chemises
De Marat,
Je n’ai point les chemises;
Cherchez, Messieurs les magistrats
Cherchez dans nos valises.

“Mme. Victoire dit à son tour:
“Avait-il des chemises,
Avait il des chemises?
Moi, je crois qu’il n’en avait pas,
Où les aurait-il prises?

“MM. les magistrats, connaissant de réputation les chemises de l’écrivain, répondent avec une gravité toute municipale:
“Il en avait trois grises
Il en avait trois grises,
Avec l’argent de son fatras
Sur le Pont Neuf acquises.

“La municipalité se met alors en devoir de fouiller dans les malles de Mesdames, en disant:

“Cherchons bien les chemises
à Marat
Cherchons bien les chemises
C’est pour vous un fort vilain cas
Si vous les avez prises.

“Enfin, ne pouvant pas distinguer, parmi tant de chemises lesquelles appartenaient à Marat, et les tantes du roi persistant à nier qu’elles eussent, derobé celles du grand homme, la municipalité d’Arnay-ci-devant-le-duc, accorda à Mesdames la permission de continuer leur voyage après les avoir retenues prisonnières l’espace de dix jours.”

Mme. Le Brun painted the portrait first of Madame Adéla?de, then of Madame Victoire.

The latter, during her last sitting, said to her—

“I have received some news which fills me with joy; I hear the King has escaped from France, and I have just written to him, only addressing—To His Majesty the King of France. They will know very well where to find him,” she added smiling.

Mme. Le Brun returned home and told the good news to her daughter’s governess. But while they were rejoicing over it they, in the evening, heard one of their servants singing below, a sullen, gloomy fellow who never used to sing, and whom they knew to be a revolutionist. Looking at each other in terror they exclaimed—

“Some misfortune has happened to the King.”

Next morning they heard of the arrest of the royal family at Varennes.

Most of the servants were bribed by the Jacobins to spy upon their masters, and knew much better than they what was going on in France. Many of [111] them used to go and meet the courrier who told them much more than was contained in the letters he brought. After having lived two years and a half in Italy, chiefly in Rome, Mme. Le Brun began to think of returning to France.

How she could have entertained so mad an idea seems inexplicable; but in fact, bad as the French news was, she was far from understanding the frightful state of the country. In those days news travelled slowly, important events only became partially known long after they had taken place; and as to private letters, people dared not put in them anything which might endanger either themselves or their friends.

Her mother, brother, and sister-in-law, to all of whom she was strongly attached, were in France, and she was anxious to see them; so, with deep regret and many tears, she left Rome and turned her steps northward, of course with her child and governess.

They left Rome late in April, 1792, and travelled slowly along by Perugia, Florence, Siena, Parma, and Mantova to Venice, where they arrived the eve of the Ascension, and saw the splendid ceremony of the marriage of the Doge and the Adriatic. There was a magnificent fête in the evening, the battle of the gondoliers and illumination of the Piazza di San Marco; where a fair as well as the illumination went on for a fortnight.

Venice was crowded with foreigners, amongst whom was one of the English princes; and Lisette’s friend, the Princesse Joseph de Monaco, whom she saw for the last time, she also being on her way to France, where she met her death.


She also met an acquaintance, M. Denon, who introduced her to the Comtesse Marini, of whom he was then the cavalière servente; and who at once invited her to go that evening to a café.

Lisette, to whom such an invitation was unfamiliar, accepted however; and the Countess then said—

“Have you no friend to accompany you?”

“I have no one with me,” replied she, “but my daughter and her governess.”

“Oh, well!” said the Countess, “you must anyhow appear to have somebody; I will lend you M. Denon all the time you are here; he will give you his arm, I will take somebody else’s arm, and people will think I have quarrelled with him, for you can’t go about here without un ami.”
E. H. Bearne

The arrangement proved entirely satisfactory. Lisette went about all day with M. Denon, in gondolas, and to see everything—churches, pictures, palaces; every one who knows Venice even now, knows it as a place of enchantment, unlike anything else on earth; and in those days the Doge still reigned, modern desecrations and eyesores were not, and the beauty of the life and surroundings of the Queen of the Adriatic was supreme.

Lisette frequented chiefly the society of the Spanish Ambassadress, with whom she went to the Opera at the far-famed Fenice, and finally left Venice and went by Padova, Vicenza, and Verona to Turin, where she had letters of introduction from Mesdames to the Queen, whose portrait they wished her to paint for them.

In former years, before the marriage of the Queen, [113] Mme. Le Brun had seen her, as a very young girl, at the court of her grandfather, Louis XV., when she was so fat that she was called le gros Madame. She was now pale and thin, whether from the austerities of devotion she now practised, or from her grief at the misfortunes of her family and anxiety for her sister, Madame Elizabeth, and her eldest brother, the King of France.

She would not have her portrait done, saying that she was very sorry to refuse her aunts, but as she had renounced the world she could not have her picture taken. She had cut her hair short and her dress was very simple. The King looked nearly as pale and thin.

They received Mme. Le Brun very kindly, and she next went to see the Comtesse de Provence, for the second and third brothers, the Counts of Provence and Artois, had taken refuge at their sister’s court.

The Comtesse de Provence was delighted to see Mme. Le Brun again, and arranged various excursions, which they made together into the mountains, in spite of the intense heat, for the summer was at its height. After spending some time in Turin, Signor Porporati offered to lend Mme. Le Brun a farm in the country, where he had a few rooms furnished for himself, and where he used often to go in hot weather. This exactly suited her, for the heat was overpowering, her little girl was made quite ill by it; and with joyful haste, she, with the governess, child, and servants, established themselves amongst the meadows, woods, and streams which surrounded the farm house.


There she rested, spending the days out of doors in the cool green country, and looking forward to her approaching return to France; when one evening a letter was brought her from M. de Rivière, the brother of her sister-in-law, which told her of the horrible events of the 10th of August, the attack on the Tuileries, the imprisonment of the Royal Family, the massacres and horrors of all kinds still going on.

Overcome with grief at this terrible news, and filled with self-reproach for the peaceful happiness of her own life, the solitude of the place became insupportable, and she at once returned to Turin.

Had not this been sufficient to put a stop to all idea of going to France, the sights which met them as the little party entered Turin would have done so.

The streets and squares were thronged with French refugees, who had fled, and were still flying, from France. They arrived by thousands, men, women, and children of all ranks and ages, most of them without luggage, money, or even food; having had no time to take anything with them or think of anything but saving their lives. The old Duchesse de Villeroi had been supported on the journey by her maid, who had enough money to get food for ten sous a day. Women, who had never been in carts before, were prematurely confined on the road, owing to the jolting; children were crying for food, it was a heartrending spectacle. The King gave orders that food and lodging should be found for them, but there was not room to put them all in; the Comtesse de Provence was having [115] food carried about the streets, and Lisette, like the rest, gave all the help in her power, going round with the equerry of Madame to look for rooms and get provisions.

Seeing a handsome, noble-looking old officer, wearing the Cross of St. Louis, leaning against the corner of a street, with despair in his face, asking for nothing, but evidently faint with hunger, they went up and gave him what little money they had left, which he took, thanking them with a voice broken by sobs. The next morning he and several others were lodged in the King’s palace, no other rooms being forthcoming.

The weeks following were terrible for Lisette, the anxiety and agitation she was in being increased by the non-appearance of M. de Rivière, who had told her to expect him at Turin. At last, a fortnight later than the day fixed, he arrived, so dreadfully changed that she hardly recognised him. As he crossed the bridge of Beauvoisin he had seen the priests being massacred, and that and all the other atrocities he had witnessed had thrown him into a fever, which had detained him for some time at Chambéry.

With fear and trembling Lisette inquired for her relations, but was assured that her mother was well, and never left Neuilly, that M. Le Brun was all right at Paris, and that her brother and his wife and child were safe in hiding.

Having decided to stop at Turin and wait for further news, she took a little house in a vineyard near the town. M. de Rivière lodged with her, and gradually recovered amongst the peaceful surroundings. [116] Even the sight of the honest, quiet, peaceable peasants did them good. They walked among the vineyards, or in a neighbouring wood, where steep paths led to little churches and chapels, in which they attended mass on Sundays; and Lisette resumed her work, painting amongst other things a picture, “Une baigneuse,” which she sold at once to a Russian prince, and a portrait of his daughter as a present to Signor Porporati.

After a time she went to Milan, where she was received with great honour. The first evening she was serenaded by all the young men of the chief Milanese families, but, not knowing that all this music was on her account, she sat listening and enjoying it with composure, until her landlady came and explained. She made an excursion to the lakes, and on her return to Milan decided to go to Vienna, seeing that France would be out of the question for an indefinite time.

At a concert in Milan she made the acquaintance of the Countess Bistri, a beautiful Pole, who was also going to Vienna with her husband. They arranged to travel together, and this was the beginning of a long and intimate friendship.

The Count and Countess were kind, excellent people, who had just brought with them a poor old emigrant priest, and another younger one, whom they had picked up on the road after he had escaped from the massacre of the bridge of Beauvoisin. They had only a carriage with two places, but they had put the old man between them and the young one behind the carriage, and had taken the greatest care of them.


They travelled from Milan to Vienna through the magnificent scenery of Tyrol and Styria, and arrived safely at the Austrian capital, where Mme. Le Brun spent two years and a half happily and prosperously. Every one was eager to invite her to their houses, and the numerous portraits she painted made her sojourn in Austria as profitable as it was pleasant.

She brought, of course, many letters of introduction, of which the first she availed herself was to the Countess von Thoum, at whose soirées she met all the most important personages in Vienna, and also many French emigrés amongst whom, to her great joy, was her old friend the Comte de Vaudreuil.

Never, she afterwards remarked, had she seen so many pretty women together as in the salon of Mme. de Thoum; but what surprised her was that most of them did needlework sitting round a large table all the evening. They would also knit in their boxes at the opera; but it was explained that this was for charity. In other respects she found society at Vienna very much the same as at Paris before the advent of the Revolution.

Another of her introductions was to Prince von Kaunitz, the great Minister of Maria Theresa, whose power and influence had been such that he was called le cocher de l’Europe; [41] and whose disinterested single-minded patriotism was shown in his answer, when, having proposed a certain field-marshal as president of the council of war, the Empress remarked—

“But that man is your declared enemy.”


“Madame,” he replied, “that man is the friend of the State, which is the only thing that ought to be considered.”

Kaunitz was now eighty-three years old, tall, thin, and upright. His great intellect, taste, and judgment seemed unimpaired, and he prided himself on his perfect seat on horseback. In costume and appearance he resembled the splendid cavaliers of the court of Louis XIV.

His life at Vienna was that of a grand seigneur of the most illustrious order, and on New Year’s day and on his fête, the crowd that flocked to his house to congratulate him was so enormous that he might have been supposed to be the Emperor himself.

He was extremely kind to Mme. Le Brun, whom he always called “ma bonne amie”; she was often at his house, though she did not care for the great dinners of never less than thirty people, which were always at seven o’clock—in those days considered a late hour.

Lisette, in fact, liked to paint all the morning, dine by herself at half-past two, then take a siesta, and devote the latter part of the day and evening to social engagements.

Prince von Kaunitz desired that her picture of the Sibyl should be exhibited for a fortnight in his salon, where all the court and town came to see it. Mme. Le Brun made also the acquaintance of the celebrated painter of battles, Casanova.

One evening at a dinner-party of Prince von Kaunitz, when the conversation turned upon painting, some one was speaking of Rubens being appointed ambassador.


An old German baroness exclaimed—

“What? A painter ambassador? Doubtless it must have been an ambassador who amused himself by painting.”

“No, Madame,” replied Casanova, “he was a painter who amused himself by being ambassador.”

One of her new friends was the Countess Kinska, who, as she observed, was “neither maid, wife, nor widow,” for she and her husband had been married according to their parents’ arrangement, without ever having seen each other, and after the ceremony Count Kinska, turning to her, said—

“Madame, we have obeyed our parents. I leave you with regret, but I cannot conceal from you that for a long time I have been devoted to another woman. I cannot live without her, and I am going back to her.”

So saying, he got into the carriage that was waiting at the church door, and she saw no more of him.

The Countess was extremely pretty, attractive, and amiable. One day while she was sitting for her portrait, Mme. Le Brun had occasion to send for Mme. Charot, her nursery-governess, who came in looking so pleased that she asked what had happened.

“I have just had a letter from my husband,” she said; “he tells me that they have put me on the list of emigrés. I shall lose my eight hundred francs de rente, but I console myself for that, as there I am on the list of respectable people.”

A few minutes later the Countess said that Mme. Le Brun’s painting blouse was so convenient she wished she had one like it; and in reply to her offer [120] to lend her one said she would much rather Mme. Charot made it, for which she would send the linen. When it was finished she gave Mme. Charot ten louis.

M. de Rivière was also at Vienna, and took part in all the private theatricals and diversions going on.

Mme. Le Brun painted a remarkable portrait of Mlle. Fries, the great banker’s daughter, as Sappho, she being an excellent musician. Also of the Baron and Baroness Strogonoff with whom she became very intimate.

At a State ball she first saw again the Empress, Marie Thérèse, daughter of the Queen of Naples, whom she found much changed in appearance. She had painted her portrait in 1792.

She also was overjoyed to meet the Comtesse de Brionne, Princesse de Lorraine, one of the earliest friends who had shown her unvarying kindness at the beginning of her career—and she resumed her old habit of going often to supper with her. The Polignac, too, had a place near Vienna, in fact, wherever she went Lisette met numbers of her unfortunate countrymen and acquaintance driven into exile, watching in despair the course of events in France.

She scarcely dared read the newspapers, since one day on opening one she had seen in the death list the names of nine persons of her acquaintance; and all her Austrian friends tried to prevent her from hearing or knowing what was going on. A letter from her brother, however, brought her the fatal news of the murder of the King and Queen.

She was as happy at Vienna as she could be [121] anywhere under the circumstances. During the winter she had the most brilliant society in Europe, and for the summer she had taken a little house at Sch?nbrunn, near the Polignac, in a lovely situation, to which she always retired when Vienna became too hot, and where she took long solitary walks by the Danube, or sat and sketched under the trees.

Here she finished the portrait of the young Princess von Lichtenstein, as Iris. As she was represented with bare feet, her husband told Mme. Le Brun that when it was hung in his gallery, and the heads of the family came to see it, they were all extremely scandalised, so he had placed a pair of little shoes on the ground under it, and told the grand-parents they had dropped off.


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