29th june 2004
ladies please form an orderly queue


It's Rousseau's birthday, and here he is in one of the great feel-good portraits. This is the best-known one, much copied and reproduced, by Maurice-Quentin de la Tour, painted in 1753 when Rousseau was 41 (my age now), a few years before he produced The Social Contract.
Diderot hated this picture, and complained (in such a pre-modern way):

M. de la Tour, usually so sublime and true to life, has not produced the masterpiece of which he is capable . . . I expected to see slovenly dress, dishevelled wig, an aspect to alarm literary and high society; but I see only the author of The Village Soothsayer*, well-dressed, combed and powdered and ridiculously seated on a straw-bottomed chair.

Well Denis, I suspect you were just cranky that you never looked half so good, or had a chin quite so blue.

*Rousseau's 1752 opera, now not performed so much.