Jacques-Louis David’s portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and his wife, Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze represents a departure from the artist’s more famous genre paintings. The 1788 painting was commissioned by Paulze, who was also David’s drawing student. The artwork is known for its neoclassical naturalism style that emphasizes realism in portraying everyday life.
The portrait was executed during a time of political turmoil in France where the couple had fallen foul of circumstances beyond their control despite their urbane lifestyle and wealth. As a result, the painting became embroiled in politics and was withdrawn from the Salon after being deemed inappropriate for political reasons; it wasn’t exhibited again until a century later in 1886.