Labille-Guiard composed her portraits like large scale history paintings of the time. In this huge canvas we see an artist working at her easel as her two pupils look-on with admiration. Labille-Guiard has positioned herself in the middle of the canvas dressed as an aristocratic lady in a very fashionable, low-cut, satin dress, powdered hair and hat with bows and feathers. According to Laura Auricchio, her pose and costume would have been instantly recognizable as the images from the published fashion plates that were so popular among the elite audience of fashionable women who were also very desirable patrons. She seems to be giving an all-encompassing impression of herself in this self-portrait. On the one hand she is dressed provocatively – her ample bosom is placed at the center of the painting and her little foot peeks under her dress – and on the other, she has two statues behind her one of her father and the other the Vestal Virgin – the former lending a sense of propriety and the latter a sense of virtue. She is claiming this is her studio and she is being watched over by her father and the Virgin.
1 “[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. 2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.