1868; Louvre, Paris
An unexpected facet of Monet's abilities appears in the skill and grace with which he carried out the always difficult commission of full-length, life-size portrait. M. and Mme Gaudibert of Le Havre were the generous and understanding couple who came to Monet's rescue in a year of cumulative misfortunes. His family disowned him because of his association with Camille by whom he had a child. None of the pictures he sent in the spring to the International Maritime Exhibition at Le Havre was sold and the canvases were seized by his creditors. In the summer, together with Camille and the child, he was thrown out of the lodgings he took at Fécamp. He came near to suicide. The order for portraits of the Gaudiberts and their purchase of other pictures by Monet tided him over the worst of his difficulties for a time and enabled him to resume the painting he had almost abandoned in despair. `Thanks to this gentleman of Le Havre who's been helping me out', he wrote to Bazille, `I'm enjoying the most perfect peace and quiet'. He looked forward again to doing `some worthwhile things'.
The portrait of Madame Gaudibert, painted in a chateau near Etretat, is none the less distinguished for being in a quiet key. The lady's dress was of that dull satin that offered little scope to the colourist but Monet gives dignity to its folds and adds color--discreetly subdued--in shawl, carpet and curtained background that lightens the effect. This is further enlivened by the touches of white at collar and cuffs and in the design of the shawl. Head and hands are painted with a sensitive simplicity.