Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, who was in high demand for portraits during the 1780's, had a waiting list of well to do clientele.
After painting so many duchesses and dukes, it is not surprising to find a niche. What is a sitter's best angle? To smile or not to smile? Feathers and pearls or lots of diamonds and velvet? What pose is most flattering to what type of lady?
One pose she had success with was a side-way turn, where the sitter appears to be moving forward, but glancing to the side at the viewer. Some advantages to this pose include showing off a tiny waste, creating a dynamic composition with plenty of movement (think fabric and hair) and still capturing the face - the most intriguing part of the portrait. The figures engage the viewers and the viewers can examine and appreciate person before them.
Vigée Le Brun. Mme. Molé Raymond, 1786. Oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre.
Some ladies who struck this pose for Le Brun include Madame Molé Raymond whose portrait was finished in 1786. Mme. Molé Raymond appears to be hustling by us, in a rush to hit the shops or something equally diverting, her hair, feathers and ribbons around her waist flutter in the air as she moves. I adore this gown, a lavender silk over dress with an amazing teal pop underneath. Her chapeau matches of course! She glances out at the viewer and smiles with wide eyes. She acknowledges us by raising her muff up and holding it slight to the side. She could turn towards us at any moment!
Vigée Le Brun, Portrait of a Woman, 1797. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts.