Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and His Wife, Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze
by Jacques-Louis David, ca. 1788
This is one of the greatest portraits of the eighteenth century, painted when David was at the peak of his powers and had become the standard-bearer of French Neoclassicism.
Lavoisier was a chemist, nobleman, and tax-collector. He was a pioneer of the science and is known as the “Father of Modern Chemistry”. His fundamental contributions to chemistry grew from a conscious effort to fit all his experiments into the framework of a single theory. He is best known for his pioneering studies of oxygen, gunpowder, and the chemical composition of water. He is also considered to be the “Father of Modern Nutrition”, being the first to discover the metabolism that occurs inside the human body.
In 1789 his theories were published in the “Traite elementaire de chimie”. The illustrations in this book were prepared by his wife, the chemist Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze, who received formal training in the field from Jean-Baptiste Bucquet and Philippe Gingembreis and is believed to have studied art with David. A portfolio of her drawings rests on the armchair to the left.
The Lavoisiers spent much of their time together in the laboratory, working as a team conducting research on many fronts. Marie-Anne also assisted her husband by translating English chemistry papers into French.
Despite Lavoisier’s service to the revolutionary regime, he was guillotined along with twenty-seven other tax collectors.
After his death, the new government seized all of Lavoisier’s notebooks and laboratory equipment and forced his wife into bankruptcy. Despite these obstacles, Marie-Anne organized the publication of Lavoisier’s final memoirs, Mémoires de physique et de chimie, a compilation of his papers and those of his colleagues demonstrating the principles of the new chemistry.
(mashed from here, here and here)