ObeliskThe Artists
Apricots in a ceramic bowl, with plums on a stone ledge

Louise Moillon

Portrait of Louise Moillon

The original peaches-as-butts emoji

Tucked away in the Paris neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, an enclaive of Dutch Protestant refugees, Louise Moillon was raised by a family of painters. Her father was an artist who specialized in oil painting, and after his death when Louise was ten, her mother remarried to an art dealer. Along with her brother Isaac, also painted young Louise learned the techniques and subject matter of the Dutch still life masters.

And Louise Moillon found success, quckly. By 20 years old, Moillon had found her stride, bringing the quiet Protestant formality of still life to Paris, though with some of her own additions. Many of her still lives include a human figure, blurring the lines between genre and earning patronage from King Charles I of England, and members of the French nobility. Unfortunately, as was expected of a Christian wife of the time, her painting slowed after her marriage to a merchant named Etienne Girardot de Chancourt, in 1640.

Moillon was 75 years old when Louis XIV of France wrote the Edict of Fontainebleau, revoking a previous edict that held an uneasy peace between the state religion, Catholicism, and practicing Protestants. Immediate and extreme persecution of Protestants swept through France. Moillon’s husband was imprisioned for his faith, and one of her children sent to a convent to be forcibly converted to Catholicism, and two more of her children fled the country. It is unknown if she perfessed her Prostestant faith through these troubled years, but when she died in 1696 she was given a Catholic burial, leaving approximately forty paintings, examples of her quitely sultry paintings.

Reed Enger, "Louise Moillon, The original peaches-as-butts emoji," in Obelisk Art History, Published August 17, 2018; last modified November 18, 2018, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/louise-moillon/.

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