Mme. Lavoisier learned to draw from Jacques-Louis David. His expensively commissioned portrait of the couple tells us of their relationship. The two are physically close, her arm rests on his shoulder. But there is a distance between them. To me there is also a certain tension in the leaning posture of Mme. Lavoisier—am I imagining that she is pressing in, and would like to enter Lavoisier’s realm of instruments in the right-hand part of the picture? Lavoisier looks at his wife—she looks out at us, at the world.
Roald Hoffman in American Scientist 90.1 (2002)
I have always loved this portrait, so many feelings. Obviously, the way he’s looking up at her first of all, but also her entire stance- hand on shoulder and knuckles on the table strikes me as so, so typical of a male colleague, I love it. When a portrait is done of two male scientists, or of a roomful of male artists at an academy, this is how they stand. I <3 the Lavoisiers, favorite tragic historical couple.
It’s even more exciting when you look at depictions of other male/female teams in art… The best Caroline Herschel ever got was a sketch of herself bringing dear brother William a sustaining cup of tea. Bloody typical.