La femme à la chasse: Anne Vallayer-Coster’s Paintings of the Hunt,” by Kelsey Brosnan




Still life painter Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744–1818) was one of four académiciennes admitted to the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in the late eighteenth century (Fig. 1). Throughout her career, Vallayer-Coster painted a range of textures, alternately organic and artificial, luxuriant and quotidian. Though she is typically characterized as a painter of flowers and fruit, Vallayer-Coster also produced at least three representations of the hunt.1 However, these works have garnered little attention—perhaps because they constitute a rather small subsection of her oeuvre, and they seem to adhere to the hunting trophy formula established by her academic forbears, François Desportes (1661–1743) and Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686–1755): hunting dog, gun, and thick piles of dead game, situated in landscape settings.2



Fig. 1. Charles François Le Tellier after Anne Vallayer-Coster, Anne Vallayer-Coster, Académicienne, after 1781, etching and engraving, 9 1/4 x 7 3/8 in. (23.4 x 18.6 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Image open access, courtesy of National Gallery of Art.

Art historians have recently begun to consider the political and cultural dimensions of the hunt, and the implications of its representation in eighteenth-century French art.3 Amy Freund, for example, has explored the formation of masculine identities in eighteenth-century hunting portraits and animal paintings.4 Freund’s interpretation of these images requires that the viewer identify with the hunter; she explains, “We the viewers take the position of that man, surveying what we have killed, and what still remains to be killed.”5 The presumed complicity of the hunter, artist, and viewer is perhaps best illustrated by Desportes’s reception piece, Self-Portrait in Hunting Dress (Fig. 2). With this work, Desportes was admitted to the Academy as a peintre d’animaux [animal painter] in 1699. Despite the apparent rigidity of the hierarchy of genres at the turn of the eighteenth century, Desportes’s self-portrait offers evidence of the hybridity, or perhaps the porousness, of the genre of the hunt. These scenes often required proficiency in rendering the human likeness, a natural landscape, animals dead and alive, as well as the textures of other objects associated with still life painting. The portrait was subsequently installed in the assembly room of the Academy at the Louvre, and came to serve as a prototype for this subgenre of male portraiture, soon emulated by Oudry and others.6



Fig. 2. François Desportes, Self-Portrait in Hunting Dress, ca. 1699, oil on canvas, 77 1/2 x 64 1/5 in. (197 x 163 cm), Musée du Louvre, Paris. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.

In Self-Portrait in Hunting Dress, the artist presents himself as the protagonist of the hunt, asserting his dominance over his slain subjects: we can imagine that the artist himself hunted and killed the very animals that he depicts laying in a heap beside him. He offers his viewers (and potential patrons) a kind of vicarious pleasure, allowing them to imagine themselves in a position of masculine dominance over nature. Indeed, Desportes frequently attended the chasse royale [royal hunt], sketchbook in hand—thereby gaining access to the greatest chasseur [hunter] and patron of all, the king.7 Desportes was thus quite capable of allying himself with the “hunter-patron” and producing images that recalled his trials and successes in the woods.

What, then, do we make of Vallayer-Coster’s paintings of the hunt? How does her work complicate Freund’s argument? As the daughter of a goldsmith, who lived her entire life in Paris, Vallayer-Coster probably never participated in this primarily masculine and aristocratic form of recreation. What did it mean for a woman to paint a gun in the eighteenth century— much less to wield one? If representations of the hunt served as a form of vicarious pleasure for aristocratic men, what was the appeal for a female artist or viewer?

Vallayer-Coster certainly inherited the tradition of the hunting trophy; yet unlike her male predecessors, Vallayer-Coster was forced to imagine the hunt’s pleasures from a distance, through a close examination of its material attributes. I argue that Vallayer-Coster’s representations of the hunt are rife with contradictions. The artist emphasizes the sensual textures of the dead animal bodies, as well as the weapons used to slaughter them, which suggests a conflicted attitude towards the subject. This sense of ambivalence ultimately serves to undermine the patriarchal violence and power associated with the hunt—the same power represented in similar paintings by Desportes and Oudry. In order to contextualize Vallayer-Coster’s interventions in this genre, I first investigate the gendered dynamics of this practice and its representations in several eighteenth-century portraits. I subsequently explore contemporary ideas about women, weapons, and game, and employ these ideas in my visual analysis of Vallayer-Coster’s work.



La femme à la chasse


Even if Vallayer-Coster never attended or participated in a chasse royale, there is evidence that elite women in the eighteenth century did—so it is with this social history that I begin, in order to better understand the implications of a woman as huntress. The hunt was largely a royal pursuit, and a fairly regular one at that. Louis XV (1710–1744) hunted three times per week on average; during the reign of his grandson, Louis XVI (1752–1793), the ritual took place almost daily. Yet the chasse royale was more than just a monarchical form of recreation; it was a symbolic expression and consolidation of masculine, absolutist power over people, animals, and land.8 French law asserted hunting as the exclusive privilege of the nobility—although the petite chasse was also widely and illicitly practiced, as suggested by the title of Antoine Trémolières de St. Saturnin’s 1724 treatise, L’art de la chasse, pour le divertissement de la noblesse, et de tous ceux qui aiment cet exercice [The Art of the Hunt, for the Amusement of the Nobility, and All Those Who Enjoy this Exercise].9

It seems to have been quite common for female members of the court to follow the course of the hunt on horseback or in a carriage, rather than directly participating in it. Three women close to Louis XV, for example, frequently attended the chasse royale: his mistress, Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour (1721–1764); his oldest daughter, Louise Élisabeth de France (1727–1759); and his grandson’s bride, the future Queen Marie Antoinette (1755–1793).10 Pompadour’s meteoric rise from a tax farmer’s wife to the king’s favorite may be partially attributed to Louis XV’s enthusiasm for the hunt, and her strategic appearances before his hunting party. It was apparently during a 1744 expedition in the Sénart forest, near her château at Étiolles, that Louis XV first took notice of the newly married Pompadour riding alone in an elaborate barouche (a four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage)—a spectacle evidently designed to draw the attention of the king.11

For the duration of her affair with the king, Pompadour continued to make her presence felt on the hunt through a series of strategic commissions. At the Château de Fontainebleau, one of Louis XV’s favorite hunting lodges, she installed a portrait of herself in the guise of Diana, the Greek goddess of the Hunt, by Jean-Marc Nattier (1685–1766).12 Nattier, among Pompadour’s preferred portraitists, employed the same mythological theme for nearly a dozen other portraits déguisés [allegorical portraits]—including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Madame Bergeret de Frouville as Diana (Fig. 3).13 The similarities between the portraits of Pompadour and the young, aristocratic Bergeret de Frouville recall Diderot’s criticism of Nattier’s formulaic practice: “All his portraits look alike; one thinks one is always seeing the same face.”14 Both subjects appear with cheeks rouged and hair tightly curled (a fashionable mid-century hairstyle called tête de mouton [sheep’s head]), wearing titillating costumes of sheer white chemises and leopard furs draped loosely around their shoulders; gold quivers and bows further enhance their guises.



Fig. 3. Jean-Marc Nattier, Madame Bergeret de Frouville as Diana, ca. 1756, oil on canvas, 53 3/4 x 41 3/8 in. (136.5 x 105.1 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image open access, courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The material attributes of Diana—theatrical props likely belonging to Nattier’s studio—situate Mesdames Pompadour and Bergeret within the broader genre of the hunt; yet it is difficult to imagine them engaged in the bloody and sweaty enterprise of chasing and killing an animal. Their flimsy garb, delicate grips on their symbolic weapons, and the absence of game seem to preclude these huntresses from participating in anything resembling the contemporary, mortal sport. Indeed, Nattier’s Diana portraits share more in common with François Boucher’s erotic fantasies of the goddess of the hunt than they do with contemporary male hunting portraits.

The fantastical nature of these Diana portraits is particularly evident when they are contrasted with Nattier’s more rugged portraits of men on the hunt. One of his chasseurs, pictured in a portrait now in a private collection, sports simple knee-high boots and a deep blue justaucorps [tight-fitting coat] with a particularly cool swagger.15 Like Desportes’s self-portrait, Nattier’s subject is surrounded by hunting tools: a royal blue and gold-trimmed saddle, a hunting knife, a pulvérin [powder horn], and a hunting dog, perched on a coarse sack stuffed with dead game. The butt of this hunter’s fusil de chasse [hunting rifle] rests on his upper thigh, and the gun’s long barrel projects towards the upper right corner of the canvas. The hunter grips the handle of the cocked gun with confidence and ease, as though it were an extension of his own body; his finger rests assuredly on the trigger, poised to pull.

In her essay “Men and Hunting Guns in Eighteenth-Century France,” Freund uses Trémolières de St. Saturnin’s L’art de la chasse to understand the relationship between hunters and their weapons in mid-century portraits. She suggests that de St. Saturnin’s descriptions of his own gun are “couched in bodily terms. The gun is made to a man’s measure and functions as an extension of his person. Because of its identification with the man who owns it, the gun is naturalized as an integral part of the elite male body.”16 Given this phallic understanding of the weapon, it is perhaps unsurprising that eighteenth-century women are almost never depicted wielding a gun—or that female artists, like Vallayer-Coster, would be unlikely to paint them.

There do exist a handful of paintings of royal women dressed in contemporary costumes de chasse [hunting costumes]. Yet even in these exceptional images, the tools of the hunt that endowed Nattier’s chasseur with such potency are almost entirely absent. Queen Marie Antoinette’s personal fondness for the hunt has been well-documented, but she was never represented with weapons or game.17Although guns are absent from her portraits, there is evidence that the queen bought and used them herself. The queen gifted a set of twelve fusils de chasse à silex [flintlock guns], complete with a velvet-lined case filled with tools to clean and maintain the weapons, to her mother, Empress Maria Teresa of Austria; one pair from that set now belongs to the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. Another flintlock fowling gun owned by Queen Marie Antoinette was likely a gift from her husband; Pierre de Saintes, who had been appointed the official gunmaker to Louis XV in 1763, inlaid the weapon with gold and silver. Finally, a manuscript in the Archives nationales, État des chasses de l’équipage de la reine et de Monseigneur comte d’Artois pour le sanglier [State of the Hunting Equipment of the Queen and the Monseigneur comte d’Artois for the Boar Hunt], tells us that the queen, along with her brother-in-law, the comte d’Artois (1757–1836), purchased and maintained the duc d’Orléans’s entire hunting equipment between 1784 and 1786.18

Even if their portraits depict them as impotent spectators of the hunt, these royal women possessed the power to buy and use elaborately decorated guns. Non-royal women, we must speculate, did not have the same privilege, despite the relatively low cost of a standard firearm. In Historique de la Manufacture d’Armes de Guerre de Saint-Étienne [History of the Manufacture of the Arms of War of Saint-Étienne] (1900), Raymond Dubessy estimated that a basic flintlock cost as little as seven livres [pounds], making simple, functional firearms accessible to a wide range of customers; yet the vast majority of gun owners were likely men.19 Louis-Sébastien Mercier notes one important caveat in Le tableau de Paris (1781): as was true in many family workshops in the ancien régime, the wives of gunmakers were often responsible for sales—requiring them to become familiar with their products, if not to operate them recreationally.20

According to one eighteenth-century author, the primary deterrent to female gun ownership was feminine sensitivity to the gun’s explosive sound and ricochet—that is, the sensory experience of shooting a gun. In Mémoires sur l’Ancienne Chevalerie [Memoires of Ancient Chivalry] (1781), Jean-Baptiste de La Curne de Sainte-Palaye wrote of women: “There are only a very small number to be found among them who dare to familiarize themselves with the noise of firearms and the idea of the dangers to which their usage sometimes exposes [the user].”21 Indeed, men and women were believed to experience and respond to sights, sounds, tastes, and smells differently— much as they were understood to think, write, and paint in different ways. In his Système physique et moral de la femme [Physical and Moral Systems of Women] (1775), for example, physician Pierre Roussel wrote of a woman’s “difficulty in shedding the tyranny of her sensations that constantly binds her to the immediate causes which produced them”—namely, to the material stimuli that provoked various physical sensations.22

For many, a woman’s gentle nature and aversion to violence made her ill-suited for wielding a firearm. After all, it was through hunting and warfare that boys became men. In Rousseau’s Emile, Or On Education (1762), the narrator-tutor argues that hunting would purge a young man of “the dangerous inclinations born of softness”—the feminine influences of childhood. He continues, “The hunt hardens the heart as well as the body. It accustoms one to blood, to cruelty.”23 In an earlier text, Discourse on Inequality (1754), Rousseau had identified early man’s proclivity for hunting, in contrast with his female counterpart’s sedentary nature, as the anthropological origin of the differences (indeed, the inequality) between the sexes.24 This sentiment persisted into the Revolutionary era, when the procurator-general of the Commune, Pierre Gaspard Chaumette, declared: “[Nature] has said to man: ‘Be a man: hunting, farming, political concerns, toils of every kind, that is your appanage.’”25

If hunting was central to the formation (or “hardening”) of the male ego, and the gun was a phallic symbol of this emotional and physical transformation, the armed huntress was truly exceptional, even paradoxical. As Mary Zeiss Stange writes in Woman the Hunter, “To the extent that hunting has served both patriarchy and feminism as a root metaphor for men’s activity in the world, Woman the Hunter is a necessarily disruptive figure.”26 Consider, for example, the utter strangeness of a portrait by Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), known to us through a 1727 engraving by Benoît Audran II (1698–1772) (Fig. 4). The engraving depicts the female subject seated in a landscape, accompanied by two hunting dogs. With one hand, she pets her furry, faithful companion; with the other, she fingers the feathered wing of a dead partridge dangling from a tree branch. A still life arrangement at the huntress’ feet (a hunting purse, a pulvérin, and a single-barrel fusil de chasse) offers evidence of her active role in the hunt and aligns her with the hunters of Desportes, Oudry, and Nattier. The woman’s full skirt and feathered tricorne hat are the only material markers of her femininity.



Fig. 4. Benoît Audran II after Antoine Watteau, Retour de Chasse [Return from the Hunt], 17 1/2 x 13 3/8 in. (44.5 by 34 cm), Royal Collection Trust. © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019.

The Goncourt brothers identified the subject of the painted portrait as the chasseresse [huntress] Madame de Vermanton, a niece of the amateur [elite art enthusiast] Jean de Jullienne (1686–1766). Guillaume Glorieux has advocated an alternative: the oldest daughter of Pierre Sirois (1665–1726), an art dealer and major patron of Watteau, who facilitated the publication of several prints after Watteau’s paintings.27 In either case, the original painting represented a truly remarkable image of a non-royal woman’s active participation in the hunt. Yet the historical identity of the portrait subject becomes less significant given the form in which the huntress’ image was circulated in the eighteenth century: as a black-and-white print, bearing the vague title of Retour de chasse [Return from the Hunt].28 Engraved, colorless, and anonymous to viewers in the late eighteenth century and beyond, the woman’s transgressive potential is mitigated. She has been relegated to the more abstract, symbolic realm of a divine huntress, a vague specter of female violence and aggression; her close contact with, and manifest lethal use of, the gun becomes less problematic as a result, and she is no more of a threat than a semi-nude Diana.



Painting Hunting Trophies


Vallayer-Coster’s exceptional representations of guns must be situated within this gun culture of eighteenth-century France—to which women were, at best, peripheral. The artist primarily pictured the humble material culture of the petite chasse—the individual pursuit of small game by a “thrifty rural resident, be he Bourgeois or simple Gentleman,” in Trémolières de St. Saturnin’s words.29 In Emile, Rousseau’s narrator recalls his father’s love of the petite chasse and contrasts it with the artificial ceremony of the chasse royale. Rousseau specifically names the objects associated with the petite chasse—the very objects that populate Vallayer-Coster’s paintings:


I remember the heartthrobs that my father experienced at the flight of the first partridge, and the

transports of joy with which he found the hare he had sought all day. Yes, I maintain that my father, 

alone with his dog and burdened with his rifle, his game bag, his kit, and his little prey, returned in the evening—

exhausted returned in the and ripped by brambles—more satisfied by his day than all your ladies’ men 

[chasseurs de ruelle] passing as hunters who, riding a good horse and followed by twenty loaded rifles, 

do nothing but change rifles, shoot, and kill things around them without art, without glory,

and almost without pleasure (emphasis mine).30


Here, Rousseau implies that the individual pursuit of game was more masculine than the chasse royale, which was populated by “ladies’ men passing as hunters.” In this phrase, we can infer a double meaning. Rousseau refers to the men of the court who, more interested in repas de chasse [meals on the hunt] flirtations than the chasse itself, simply dressed the part of the hunter. On the other hand, we are prompted to recall the various royal women who attended the hunt on horseback sporting the eighteenth-century equivalents of menswear, who might pass as huntresses, but whose actual contributions to the hunt were negligible. Whether participating in the chasse royale or the petite chasse, however, Rousseau’s description makes clear that material accessories were essential to both the formation of the hunter and his pleasure in the woods.

Vallayer-Coster likely never knew the pleasures of the hunt, yet she painted both guns and game. How, then, can we describe the artist’s relationship to these objects? I suggest we approach this question by examining descriptions of guns by one of Vallayer-Coster’s female contemporaries, Charlotte Charke (1713–1760), a cross-dressing British actress. In her autobiography, Charke writes about her beloved childhood gun and the adolescent trauma of being disarmed by her mother, who was appalled by her daughter’s “ungentlewoman[ly]” delight in the weapon. In remembering and describing her gun, however, Charke recovers the pleasures it once provided her. In literary theorist Jade Higa’s essay “Charlotte Charke’s Gun: Queering Material Culture and Gender Performance,” she argues:


Charke’s transient relationship to things enables her to navigate the circumference of her

body. Rather than settle on the side of a binary, she moves beyond gender binaries. For Charke,

material culture is a means through which she can both access and express gender fluidity.31


Without making any claims for the artist’s gender identity, I wish to use Charke’s writing about her gun as a way of understanding Vallayer-Coster’s paintings of them. Engaging with the traditionally masculine material culture of the hunt, Vallayer-Coster disrupted the traditional binary gendering of these objects. Unlike Desportes, who painted himself in the guise of a hunter in order to explicitly align himself with the pleasures of the sport, Vallayer-Coster describes the very textures of that gender-transcendent fantasy: the glory and pleasure of being alone in the woods, wielding a gun and conquering prey. By staging and painting the material attributes of the hunt, Vallayer-Coster exceeded the culturally determined boundaries of her own body. 

As I argue, however, her exploration of that fantasy is rife with contradictions, which suggest a simultaneous reticence toward her subject. The psychological concept of ambivalence is perhaps the most apt term to describe these paintings, generally defined in Frontiers in Psychology as a “conflict between opposing implicit or explicit evaluations” about an object. Importantly, ambivalence is “not the same as feeling neutral or indifferent,” but rather “is characterized by simultaneously having strong positive and negative associations.”32 We might think of Vallayer-Coster’s hunting trophies, produced over the course of the 1770s and 1780s, as visual ambivalence, as the artist simultaneously celebrates and undermines the hunt through her representations of its material culture—that is, dead game and guns.





In a handful of early works, Vallayer-Coster positioned dead game in a shadowy kitchen nook, alongside sliced ham and radishes.33 Indeed, it was probably in the context of the kitchen or dining table that she first encountered game. There, dead animals were often strung upside down in order to drain excess fluids, facilitating the preservation and tenderization of their meat. Though unskinned and unplucked, the furry hare and feathered partridge are nonetheless situated in the context of the consumable. 

In several later works, however, the artist positions the bodies of hares and birds not in the kitchen, but closer to their source in nature, and accompanied by the tools of their slaughter. Here, the same bodies are isolated from the cycle of distribution, preparation, and consumption that characterize other foodstuffs in Vallayer-Coster’s paintings, and are instead embedded in the recreational sphere of the hunt. Within this context, the use value of the game is secondary to the personal victory that they represent: the hunter’s triumph over nature. This contextual shift is significant to understanding the desires of the hunter-patron. According to Freund,


Hunting is defined as an activity that, while valuable as a means of educating noblemen, is essentially

disinterested, suitable for men who are not bound to the production and exchange of foodstuffs

and goods. The hunter is instead a man who mind and body are bent on the acquisition of power,

knowledge, and pleasure (emphasis mine).34


The ideal hunter thus enjoyed the recreational pursuit and killing of game, but would have had no interest or role in the preparation of its meat or the use of its fur. 

Vallayer-Coster’s careful representations of game in landscapes were designed to appeal to this recreational disinterest of the chasseur. Yet these paintings might also be described as the expressions of her own interest in shape, line, color, shadow, light, texture, and materiality. Indeed, much has also been written of Jean-Siméon Chardin’s (1699–1779) formal interest in the substance of small game (Fig. 5). Charles-Nicolas Cochin’s 1779 biography  of the artist begins with an anecdote that has come to represent Chardin’s entire still life practice:


The first lessons Monsieur Chardin had derived from nature committed him to continue studying it

assiduously. One of the first things he did was a rabbit. The object itself seems very insignificant, but

the way he wanted to do it made of it a serious study… “Here,” he said to himself, “is an object to be

rendered. In order to paint it as it is, I have to forget all I have seen and even the way these things have 

been treated by others. I have to place it at such a distance that I no longer see its details. I must above  

all faithfully imitate its general masses, color tones, volume, and the effects of light and shadows.”

In this he succeeded; his rabbit reveals the first fruits of that discernment and magical execution

which ever since have characterized the gifts that have distinguished him (emphasis mine).35



Fig. 5. Jean-Siméon Chardin, Still Life with a Hare, 1730, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 32 in. (65.1 x 81.3 cm), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Henry P. McIlhenny, 1958-144-1. Image open access, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

According to Cochin, Chardin made himself “forget” the rabbit—his own memories and experiences of its fur and meat, as well as other images—in order to produce a truthful representation of it. In other words, formal interest requires personal disinterest in dead animals and in the hunting culture they represented in the paintings of Desportes or Oudry.

Cochin’s formalist reading of Chardin’s painting has been deconstructed in recent scholarship. In “Chardin’s Fur: Painting, Materialism, and the Question of Animal Soul,” Sarah R. Cohen suggests that Cochin was influenced by the “empiricism and sensory apprehension” of eighteenth-century scientific discourse, rather than by Chardin’s own attitude toward his subject. Cohen argues instead that Chardin’s paintings of animals are sympathetic meditations on the “material substance of the animal.” Citing texts by the physician and materialist Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709–1751) on the existence of an animal “soul,” Cohen suggests that Chardin’s paintings “argue as forcefully as did La Mettrie for a sensitive, animal essence.”36

Like Chardin, Vallayer-Coster carefully studied the “material substance of the animal,” and her paintings compel us to examine their forms.37 This attentiveness may be evidence of the artist’s sympathy for her subjects, but I suggest that her works espouse a more ambivalent attitude. Unlike Chardin, her paintings may be read as celebrations of the ambient pleasures of the hunt: fresh air, vivid blue skies, untamed pastoral landscape, and the fleshy fruits of a successful harvest. Hunting was considered to be one of the primary means of experiencing the rural landscape; as Rousseau’s narrator exclaims, “Is one really in the country if one does not hunt?”38 These dead animals simultaneously represent the fulfillment of one hunter’s desires, and the stimulation of another’s—that is, the viewer’s own desire to hunt.

Yet Vallayer-Coster’s work also probes the ambiguities of those desires. Perhaps more than her predecessors, she emphasized the sensuality of intertwined animal bodies in a way that seems to belie their deadness. The artist also offers viewers direct access to soft, tawny tufts lining hares’ bellies, as well as the densely plumed breasts of pheasants, inviting us to dwell on the appeal of soft feather and fur, and to indulge our own longing for proximity to other bodies.39 Perhaps the most voluptuous example is the inter-species orgy in the 1782 Still Life with Game (Fig. 6), commissioned by Girardot de Marigny (1733–1796), a partner in the Parisian banking firm Girardot et Cie.40 The tawny hare, gray rabbit, small brown pheasant, and long-tailed pheasant are so entangled in a post-mortem snuggle that they are nearly indistinguishable from one another.



Fig. 6. Anne Vallayer-Coster, Still Life with Game, 1782, oil on canvas, 28 x 35 1/4 in. (71 x 89.5 cm), Toledo Museum of Art. Image open access, courtesy of Toledo Museum of Art.

Indeed, Vallayer-Coster’s game animals represent various other states of in-betweenness. The freshly killed game simultaneously attract and repel, because they seem to occupy the “eerie threshold between sleep and death” (as Shao-Chien Tseng described Courbet’s paintings of game).41 So close to the moment of their slaughter, the perished bodies may still be soft and warm, yet we know stiffness and decay are imminent. Moreover, their flesh and fur have yet to be harvested, so while they are no longer wild prey, they are not yet consumable commodities.

The artist provided more explicitly repulsive details in two earlier works. The Attributes of Hunting and Gardening (Fig. 7) was probably commissioned by the abbé Joseph-Marie Terray (1715-1778) during his brief tenure as the Director of the Bâtiments du Roi [King’s Buildings] from July 1773 to August 1774.42 We know, for example, that the young académicienne Vallayer-Coster was present during the October 2, 1773 meeting of the Academy, over which Terray presided.43 In this work, Vallayer-Coster juxtaposes the fruits of the forest and the field, representing the natural wealth and abundance that Terray had hoped to cultivate in France as Louis XV’s contrôleur général des Finances [controller general]. A marble bust of the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, reigns over a group of animals, vegetables, fruits, and tools, piled in front of a regal stone staircase in the shade of a bent tree, beyond which the clearing of a thick wood is visible. Those lush trees, the placid blue sky, and the elements of the harvest all evoke the final sighs of summer, the season most commonly associated with Ceres. The setting probably also reminded Terray of his grand rural estate, the Château de La Motte-Tilly, which was situated along the Seine, fifty miles southeast of Paris; the painting may even have been specifically designed to echo that landscape.44 


Fig. 7. Anne Vallayer-Coster, The Attributes of Hunting and Gardening, 1774, oil on canvas, 60 x 54 in. (152.4 x 137.2 cm), Basildon Park, British National Trust, Lower Basildon, England. © National Trust Images

In celebrating man’s command over nature, and the abundance yielded from his efforts, Vallayer-Coster engaged in a much broader literary and artistic tradition in which nature is characterized in feminine terms. Within this patriarchal paradigm, nature is entirely subject to the desires of men.45 This theme was undoubtedly designed to flatter Terray, whose own political and cultural authority was predicated upon this idea; it remains all the more remarkable, therefore, that it was a female artist, culturally segregated from the pleasures of the hunt, who effectively painted a trophy to that form of leisure.

With this painting Vallayer-Coster effectively appealed to her hunter-patron’s desires, primarily through her use of paint. The artist lavished much attention on the fertile textures and colors occurring in nature. She painted a heavy, bulbous pumpkin, green melon, light orange gourd, bright red tomato, and two leafy vegetables: a large, pale-green cardoon, and a head of green and purple cabbage. The latter vegetable is perhaps the most loosely painted passage of the canvas: thick strokes of lavender and violet comprise the leaves, while minute squiggles and dots of dark turquoise evoke the cabbage’s curly fringe. The attributes of the hunt are represented by a musket (only the butt of which is visible), an agape hunting pouch, and the bodies of a hare and pheasant. The wound in the belly of the rabbit finds an echo in the blemished surface of the green melon on the lower left; a missing chunk in its waxy surface reveals the sweet orange flesh beneath. The subtly rendered “wounds” of the gouged melon and the freshly slaughtered hare invest the painting with pungency, which is underscored by the presence of a long wooden rake and a handheld scythe, with white impasto on the scythe providing the effect of a gleaming blade.

Trophies of the Hunt, also painted in 1774, is a related work—perhaps a study for Terray’s Attributes, or a subsequent iteration of the same subject.46 In both canvases, two pieces of game are draped precariously off a ledge. Both pheasants hang by the tail feathers, with their spindly legs unnaturally splayed. The hares, limp and belly-up, bear subtle wounds in their lower abdomens. These incisions are most likely not the result of the fatal gunshot, but rather refer to the traditional method of field dressing—that is, slicing the dead animal from ribcage to groin and removing the internal organs by hand. Field dressing was performed as soon as possible after the kill in order to preserve the quality of the meat and to lighten the triumphant hunter’s load.47 Just as the hunter was required to probe the meaty interior of his dead game without qualm, the artist was not squeamish in describing her dead game’s wounds, although she refrained from excessive gore. Vallayer-Coster employed a deep crimson pigment at the center of the cut, alluding to the animal’s visceral interior, and a lighter rust color to indicate the dried blood stains on the surrounding white fur. In the smaller Trophies of the Hunt, she added an additional liquid detail: several droplets of red paint trickling from between the hare’s legs. 

A standard psychoanalytic reading of these two paintings might assert that the wounds function as symbols of the vagina—and in the latter painting, of menstruation.48 For Freudian psychoanalysts, the (human) vagina, primarily characterized by its lack of a phallus, represents the threat of male castration; the fear of this bloody mutilation has various consequences for the male ego. The female ego, in realizing her own lack, also suffers a “narcissistic wound,” resulting in penis envy. A woman might compensate for this envy by assuming certain masculine qualities—for example, professional ambition or recreational sport.49 

In the context of this interpretation, it seems significant that an unmarried académicienne, who dreamed of her own studio and lodging at the Louvre, would lay her subjects’ wounds bare, particularly in representations of the hunt. Her frankness is particularly striking in contrast with Chardin’s general aversion to the violent and bloody facts of the hunt; his hares are almost always depicted unbloodied and whole. In Chardin’s Rabbit and Copper Pot, now in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, a rabbit is suspended over a stone ledge and a few dry dabs of red paint appear directly beneath the rabbit, a mere trace of the violence inflicted upon it. The animal itself, however, appears unwounded.50 For Stephen Eisenman, this exemplifies Chardin’s “poetic” approach, which “repeats the ancient pathos formula [. . .] that aestheticizes violence” against animals.51

Vallayer-Coster makes explicit the “deadness” of the disemboweled and castrated hare in an immediate, wet, and material way that distinguishes her from Chardin. The original sex of the hare is unclear, but whether it was once male or female hardly matters. The dead animals are depicted in a liminal, sexless (or de-sexed) state, their lack—their total subjugation at the hands of the artist-hunter—made manifest. Here, we might draw a parallel between the artist’s own desire to transcend the limitations of her own gender, performed by engaging with the materials of the chasse. 





While the dead animals in Vallayer-Coster’s paintings can be read as expressions of gender-transcendent fantasies, their representation is not entirely sympathetic. Consider the fact that the artist frequently draped their dead bodies over the very tools of their execution, and that these weapons are rendered with the same textural detail. By including guns, Vallayer-Coster clearly situates her dead game within the context of both the hunt and the cynegetic tradition of Desportes and Nattier. As previously discussed, these artists used guns to endow the subjects of their hunting portraits with masculine authority; the presence of guns in several of Vallayer-Coster’s still life paintings might suggest the artist’s own affinity for hunting or her aspirations to the power associated with its tools. (It is important to note here that Chardin occasionally painted rabbits with hunting purses and power horns, but only once with a gun—in a painting now in the Norton Simon Museum.)52 

Though the guns in Vallayer-Coster’s paintings vary slightly in terms of color and design, they are all luxurious examples of single- and double-barreled flintlock rifles. The flintlock technology was invented in the early seventeenth century by French gunmaker Marin Le Bourgeois (ca. 1550–1634), and by the late eighteenth century it had become ubiquitous in Europe. Less volatile than older mechanisms (such as the matchlock or the wheellock), the flintlock was still complicated and unwieldy to operate. In order to load the gun, the hunter had to place gunpowder into the muzzle and secure it with a lubricated wad of paper or fabric, followed by ammunition (small metal bullets) and yet another wad. Each layer of material was loaded into the barrel with the aid of a thin ramrod. A small amount of gunpowder was then dispensed into a small pan, directly underneath the flintlock mechanism.53

To fire the flintlock, the hunter positioned the lock, gripped the gun with both hands, placed the butt against his shoulder, pressed his cheek against the stock, aimed, and pulled the trigger. In response, the hammer (or cock) gripping a piece of flint would strike a piece of steel, known as a frizzen. The resulting spark ignited the powder in the pan and propelled the ammunition out of the muzzle of the gun.54 The igniting powder produced a bright flash of light, a small burst of smoke, and a sharp boom. As the ammunition discharged, the gun would recoil, suddenly and hard, into the shoulder of the user. In order to fire another shot, the hunter had to repeat this entire process.55

Eighteenth-century flintlocks all functioned in the same way, but could be distinguished by the length, texture, and number of their barrels. Pistols have shorter barrels, ideal for close-range duels. Rifles and muskets were designed to hit far-range targets and have much longer barrels—typically between four and five feet.56 Musket barrels are smoothbore, while rifle barrels have grooved interiors. The grooves improved the rifle’s accuracy, but also required frequent cleaning in order to function properly. For these reasons, (more accurate) rifles were preferred on the hunt and (more efficient) muskets were used in the military. Although we cannot see the entire length or the interior of Vallayer-Coster’s barrels, an eighteenth-century viewer would likely have identified them as rifles based on their context. Finally, Vallayer-Coster’s paintings depict both single- and double-barrel flintlock rifles. Multi-barreled guns enabled users to fire multiple shots without stopping to reload, but were more expensive and riskier to load and fire.57

Vallayer-Coster’s representations of guns may be precise enough for us to identify their type; yet I argue that her treatment of them is as equivocal as her representations of game. In the aforementioned hunter portraits by Desportes and Nattier, the entire lengths of the fusil de chasse are pictured; their barrels project into the air, ready to shoot. In contrast, Vallayer-Coster’s guns lie prone and skewed, buried underneath a thick pile of dead game. She provides only a fragmented view of the butt, stock, and lock and obscures the triggers and barrels, rendering the gun impotent. The guns have been arranged in visually frustrating orientations; yet the unusual angles from which she paints them suggests that she observed a gun directly, rather than copying a representation of one. Contemporary prints, such as the Fabrique des Armes plate in the Encyclopédie, or a 1750 engraving now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fig. 8), described the gun’s profile or dissected its individual parts, but did not provide the skewed perspectives represented in Vallayer-Coster’s paintings.



Fig. 8. Perrier, Engraving of Firearms Parts, ca. 1750, ink on paper, 18 3/4 x 25 1/4 in. (47.5 x 64 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image open access, courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Vallayer-Coster offers us glimpses of a few different types of guns, always accompanied by a soft brown leather hunting purse (designed to carry ammunition, but represented agape and empty) and a pulvérin made of porcelain or a hollow horn, with a gilded spout. The gun that appears in The Attributes of Hunting and Gardening (Fig. 6) is a simple weapon; faced with the butt of the gun, we can see its wooden exoskeleton but little else. More elaborate models, more closely associated with royal and aristocratic hunting practices, appear in Trophies of the Hunt and Still Life with Game (Fig. 7). In the former, the edge of the silver-plated butt of a single-barrel flintlock, further adorned with a red velvet cheek pad, is visible. The bodies of the dead game obscure most of the gun’s mechanisms, though we can discern the serpentine shape of the metal flintlock. In the latter painting, we view a double-barrel gun from above. We cannot see the barrels themselves, but we can see the silver-plated cleavage between the two barrels, and flintlocks on both sides of the gun. These mechanisms are more clearly described, although their legibility is compromised by the peculiar angle of the weapon. 

The gun is further adorned with a delicate marquetry design on the wrist, between the lock and the dark turquoise velvet cheek pad. This subtle embellishment is typical of the more sober, linear designs of late eighteenth-century guns, which replaced the figurative and abstract rococo ornaments that had flourished on firearm surfaces earlier in the century.58 The addition of velvet cheek pads to eighteenth-century flintlocks seems to have been a relatively rare modification. Only a handful of examples have survived—notably, Catherine the Great’s (1729–1796) hunting rifle with a green velvet cheek pad, now in the collection of the Smithsonian, and a flintlock with a crimson velvet cheek pad that bears the Comte de Châteaudun’s name, now in a private collection (Fig. 9).59 Velvet was a tufted textile typically associated with luxurious objects that came in close contact with the body, such as the upholstery of a chair or the trim of fashionable court dress; these guns with velvet cheek pads were likely designed for elite consumers who preferred to press their cheek against a soft, rich fabric, rather than hard wood or cold metal.60 



Fig. 9. Detail of French 20-Bore Flintlock Sporting Gun, ca. 1775, Christie’s, walnut, iron, and velvet. Image courtesy of Christie’s, Inc

The velvet cheek pad served Vallayer-Coster’s purposes, as well—that is, her interest in representing a range of organic and manmade textures: shiny metal, smooth wood, luxe velvet, worn leather, frayed ribbon, ruffled feathers, and fur matted with sweat and blood. Yet the artist’s interest in these textural elements comes at the expense of the gun itself. By making the gun’s shape strange and nearly unrecognizable, and draping it with velvet and fur, she compromises the legibility and potency of its mechanisms—thereby undermining its lethal function and its powerful, masculine symbolism. Her representations of guns can thus be characterized by her ambivalence towards them.

Vallayer-Coster’s emphasis on sensual textures is typical of her still life painting practice; yet, as I have argued, the artist’s interventions in the subgenre of the hunt also betray a sense of ambivalence about the material she paints. We might describe these works as gender-transcendent fantasies, yet they are also symptomatic of her alienation from the hunt by virtue of her sex; her paintings perform these fantasies and frustrations. Vallayer-Coster’s equivocal practice thus differs significantly from that of the nineteenth-century French animal painter Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899), who, a hundred years later, would gain legal permission to don trousers in pursuit of her subject matter at horse fairs and slaughterhouses—physically transgressing the cultural boundaries that Vallayer-Coster could only imaginatively transcend.61



1. Anne Vallayer-Coster is the artist’s hyphenated married name, which she used to sign her paintings after 1781 (a practice also employed by married women artists like Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and Élisabeth Vigée-LeBrun). Prior to 1781, she went by “Anne Vallayer.” To avoid confusion, I use “Vallayer-Coster” consistently throughout this essay. The two major secondary sources on Vallayer-Coster are Marianne Roland Michel, Anne Vallayer Coster (1744-1818) (Paris: Comptoir International du Livre, 1970); and Eik Kahng and Marianne Roland Michel, Anne Vallayer-Coster: Painter to the Court of Marie Antoinette, exh. cat. (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2002).

2. See Georges de Lastic and Pierre Jacky, Desportes (Saint-Rémy-en-l’Eau: Monelle Hayot, 2010); and Hal Opperman, J.-B. Oudry, exh. cat. (Fort Worth: Kimbell Art Museum, 1983).

3. See Philippe Salvadori, La chasse sous l’Ancien Régime (Paris: Fayard, 1996); Michael S. Aradas, “The Etiquette of Social Violence: Hunting and the Nobility in Early Modern France” (PhD diss., Purdue University, 2011); and Catherine Girard, “Rococo Massacres: Hunting in Eighteenth-Century French Painting” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2014). For a nuanced reading of Oudry’s own conflicted attitudes towards the cruelties of the hunt, see René Démoris, “Oudry et les cruautés du Rococo,” Littérature et arts à l’âge classique: Littérature et peinture au XVIIIe s., autour des Salons de Diderot (October 5, 2007), [repr. René Démoris, “Oudry et les cruautés du Rococo,” Revue des sciences humaines, no. 296, special issue, Bestiaire des Lumières (September-October 2009): 143-77].

4. See Amy Freund, “Men and Hunting Guns in Eighteenth-Century France,” in Materializing Gender in Eighteenth-Century Europe, eds. Jennifer Germann and Heidi Strobels (New York: Routledge, 2016), 19; and Amy Freund, “Good Dog! Jean-Baptiste Oudry and the Politics of Animal Painting,” in French Art of the Eighteenth Century: The Michael L. Rosenberg Lecture Series at the Dallas Museum of Art, ed. Heather MacDonald (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 66-79.

5. Freund, “Good Dog!,” 72.

6. As Hannah Williams has shown, however, the Academy considered Desportes’s self-portrait to be a still life and he was admitted to the institution as a specialist of the category of animal painter. Later, the artist would paint dozens of hunting trophies, as well as portraits of Louis XIV’s beloved hunting dogs. Hannah Williams, Académie Royale: A History in Portraits (London: Ashgate, 2015), 131.

7. Alexandre-François Desportes, Still Life with Dressed Game, Meat, and Fruit, National Gallery of Art, 2019,

8. As landscape historian David L. Hays has written, “The privilege of hunting was the cornerstone in the legislated construction of nobility in France. From 1396 until the Revolution, commoners in France were legally forbidden to hunt game animals, even on their own land.” David L. Hays, “Landscapes within Buildings in Late Eighteenth-Century France,” in Sites Unseen: Landscape and Vision, eds. Dianne Suzette Harris and D. Fairchild Ruggles (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), 169.

9.  Antoine Trémolières de St. Saturnin, L’art de la chasse, pour le divertissement de la noblesse, et de tous ceux qui aiment cet exercice [1724] (Rodez: Société des Lettres, Sciences et Arts de l’Aveyron, 1996).

10. Freund, “Good Dog!,” 79n10.

11. It was not until a masked ball at Versailles in the winter of 1745, however, that the king, dressed as a Yew tree, and Pompadour, dressed quite deliberately as a wood nymph, first exchanged words. Rosamond Hooper-Hamersley, The Hunt after Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour: Patronage, Politics, Art, and the French Enlightenment (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2011), 72-75.

12. Xavier Salmon, ed., Madame de Pompadour et les arts (Paris: Reunion des Musées Nationaux, 2002), cat. 23.

13. Xavier Salmon, Jean-Marc Nattier, 1685–1766, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, 1999), pp. 184, 266-70, cat. 76.

14. Jean Seznec and Jean Adhemar, Diderot: Salons, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 206. “Tous ces portraits se ressemblant, on croit toujours voir la même figure.” All translations by Kelsey Brosnan, unless otherwise noted.

15. Jean-Marc Nattier, Portrait of a Man as a Hunter, 1735, oil on canvas, dimensions unknown, private collection; reproduced in Salmon, Jean-Marc Nattier, 99-100.

16. Freund, “Men and Hunting Guns,” 18.

17. The Queen’s fondness for riding horses, well-established by her biographers, likely trumped her passion for the hunt itself. See Caroline Weber, Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 2006), 81-93; and Dena Goodman, Marie Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen (New York: Routledge, 2003).

18. See Élisabeth Caude, Jérôme de La Gorce, and Béatrix Saule, Fêtes et divertissements à la cour (Versailles: Château de Versailles, 2016), cat. 9.

19. Raymond Debussy, Histoire de la Manufacture d’Armes de Guerre de Saint-Étienne (n.p.: n.p., 1900). Cited in Freund, “Men and Hunting Guns,” 32.

20. Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Le tableau de Paris (Amsterdam: n.p., 1781). Cited in Jacob D. Melish, “The Power of Wives: Managing Money and Men in the Family Businesses of Old Regime Paris,” in Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century France, eds. Daryl M. Hafter and Nina Kushner (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2015), 77-90.

21. Jean-Baptiste de La Curne de SaintePalaye, Mémoires sur l’Ancienne Chevalerie, vol. 3 (Paris: Chez la Veuve Dechesne, 1781), 183; qtd. in Freund, “Men and Hunting Guns,” 26. “En effet il ne s’en trouve maintenant parmi elles qu’un très-petit nombre qui ose se familiariser avec le bruit des armes à feu et l’idée des dangers auxquels leur usage expose quelquefois.”

22. Pierre Roussel, Système physique et moral de la femme, ou Tableau Philosophique de la Condition, de l’État organique, de Tempérament, des Mœurs, et des Fonctions propres au Sexe (Paris: Chez Vincent, 1775), 30. “que la difficulté de se dérober à la tyrannie des sensations, l’attachant continuellement aux causes immédiates qui les produisent.” Discussed in Anne C. Vila, “Sex and Sensibility: Pierre Roussel’s Système physique et moral de la femme,” Representations, no. 52 (1995): 76-93,; and Lieselotte Steinbrügge, The Moral Sex: Women’s Nature in the French Enlightenment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 37.

23. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, or On Education [1762], trans. Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1979), 326; qtd. in Linda Zerilli, “‘Une Maîtresse Impérieuse’: Woman in Rousseau’s Semiotic Republic,” in Feminist Interpretations of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ed. Lynda Lange (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), 294.

24. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on Inequality [1754] (New York: Open Road Media, 2016), n.p.

25. Pierre Gaspard Chaumette, speech to the Commune of Paris, November 17, 1793; qtd. in Darlene Levy, Harriet Applewhite, and Mary Durham Johnson, eds., Women in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1795 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 215. 

26. Mary Zeiss Stange, Woman the Hunter (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998), 2.

27. Guillaume Glorieux, À l’enseigne de Gersaint: Edme-François Gersaint, marchand d’art sur le Pont Notre-Dame, 1694-1750 (Seyssel: Éditions Champ Vallon, 2002), 96-97.

28. The print was announced in the Mercure de France (December 1727): 2677.

29. Trémolières de St. Saturnin, L’art de la Chasse, 6; qtd. in Freund, “Men and Hunting Guns,” 19. “…nôtre économe rural, soit Bourgeois ou simple Gentilhomme.”

30. Rousseau, Emile, 353.

31. Jade Higa, “Charlotte Charke’s Gun: Queering Material Culture and Gender Performance,” ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830 7, no. 1 (2017): 6,

32. Iris K. Schneider et al., “The Path of Ambivalence: Tracing the Pull of Opposing Evaluations Using Mouse Trajectories,” Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015): 996,

33. For example, Vallayer-Coster, Still Life with Dead Hare, 1769, collection of Jeffrey Horvitz, Boston. See Kahng and Roland Michel, Vallayer-Coster, 197, cat. 10, pl. 3.

34. Freund, “Men and their Hunting Guns,” 26.

35. Qtd. by Pierre Rosenberg, Chardin 1699-1779, exh. cat., trans. Emilie P. Kaish and Ursula Korneitchouk, ed. Sally W. Goodfellow (Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1979), 143. “Les premières leçons que M. Chardin avait reçues de la nature l’engagèrent à en suivre l’étude assidûment. Une des premières choses qu’il fit fut un lapin. Cet objet paraît bien peu important; mais la manière dont il désirait le faire le rendait une étude sérieuse. Il voulait le rendre avec la plus grande vérité à tous égards et cependant avec goût, sans aucune apparence de servitude qui en pût rendre le faire sec et froid. Il n’avait point encore tenté de traiter le poil. Il sentait bien qu’il ne faillait pas penser à le conter ni à le rendre en détail. ‘Voilà, se disait-il à lui-même, un objet qu’il est question de rendre. Pour n’être occupé que de le rendre vrai, il faut que j’oublie tout ce que j’ai vu, et même jusqu’à la manière dont ces objets ont été traités par d’autres. Il faut que je le pose à une distance telle que je n’en voie plus les détails. Je dois m’occuper surtout d’en bien imiter et avec la plus grande vérité les masses générales, ces tons de la couleur, la rondeur, les effets de la lumière et des ombres.’ Il y parvint et y fit paraître les prémices de ce goût et de ce faire magique, qui depuis a toujours caractérisé les talents qui l’ont distingué.”

36. Sarah R. Cohen, “Chardin’s Fur: Painting, Materialism, and the Question of Animal Soul,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 38, no. 1 (Fall 2004): 56,

37. Ibid.

38. Rousseau, Emile, 352.

39. Jennifer Milam, “Rococo Representations of Interspecies Sensuality and the Pursuit of Volupté,” The Art Bulletin 97, no. 2 (2015): 192-209,

40. Salon of 1783, cat. 76; Roland Michel, Vallayer-Coster, cat. 286; Kahng and Roland Michel, Vallayer-Coster, 208, cat. 69, pl. 34. Girardot de Marigny’s collecting practices are described at length in Colin B. Bailey’s Patriotic Taste: Collecting Modern Art in Pre-Revolutionary Paris (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 131-62.

41. Shao-Chien Tseng, “Contested Terrain: Gustave Courbet’s Hunting Scenes,” The Art Bulletin 90, no. 2 (June 2008): 225,

42. As Louis XV’s contrôleur général des Finances, Terray exerted a powerful influence over French politics; by 1770, he was a member of the Triumvirat, a powerful trio of Secrétaires d’État [Secretaries of State], and had initiated a series of major economic reforms. Terray was dismissed from his position as Director of the Bâtiments du Roi soon after Louis XVI came to power in 1774. See Bailey, “The abbé Terray: An Enlightened Patron of Modern Sculpture,” The Burlington Magazine 135, no. 1079 (February 1993): 121-32; and Vincent Bastien and Gwenola Firmin, De Versailles à La Motte-Tilly: L’abbé Terray, ministre de Louis XV (Paris: Ed. du Patrimoine and Château de La Motte Tilly, 2015).

43. Anatole Montaiglon, ed., Procès-verbaux de l’Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, vol. 8 (1875-92; repr. Paris: Nobele, 1972), 173-74.

44. Bailey, Patriotic Taste, 75-76. This work also recalls Oudry’s 1719 reception piece, Abundance with her Attributes, in which agriculture personified is surrounded by attributes of the hunt and harvest, which earned him the title of history painter. Oudry, Abundance with her Attributes, 1719, Musée National du Château de Versailles. See Opperman, Oudry, pp. 97-99, cat. 6.

45. Sherry B. Ortner, “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” in Women, Culture, and Society, eds. Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974), 68-87.

46. Vallayer-Coster, Trophies of the Hunt, 1774, oil on canvas, 35 7/8 x 28 3/4 in. (91 x 72 cm), formerly Galerie Gismondi, Paris; see Kahng and Roland Michel, Anne Vallayer-Coster, cat. 13.

47. Walt Harrington, “Cleaning Rabbits,” The American Scholar 71 no. 4 (Autumn 2002): 69-74.

48. Incidentally, female rabbits do not menstruate regularly or independently: “Females of the European rabbit [. . .] are reflex (or induced) ovulators that require the act of copulation to stimulate ovulation, which occurs about 12 hours after mating.” A.T. Smith, “Lagomorpha (Pikas, rabbits, and hares)” in B. Grzimek et al., Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2004), 479-89.

49. This Freudian theory is summarized well in Sylviane Agacinski, “Versions of Difference,” in Contemporary French Feminism, eds. Kelly Olivier and Lisa Mae-Helen Walsh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 50.

50. Chardin, Rabbit and Copper Pot, ca. 1735-1739, Nationalmusuem, Stockholm, NM785. See Ewa Lajer-Burcharth’s investigation of Chardin’s work in The Painter’s Touch: Boucher, Chardin, Fragonard (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018). Lajer-Burcharth is primarily interested in the “deep materiality” of Chardin’s works, analyzing his idiosyncratic compositional arrangements and painting techniques, rather than the gendered and culture implications of his touches, and their specific meaning in his few representations of the hunt.

51. Stephen F. Eisenman, The Cry of Nature: Art and the Making of Animal Rights (London: Reaktion Books, 2013), 91.

52. Chardin, Dog and Game, 1730, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, F.1972.56.P.

53. See “Conservation of Three Historic Firearms in the Museum’s Collections,” Philadelphia Museum of Art,

54. Freund, “Men and Hunting Guns,” 20; and Clive Ponting, Gunpowder (London: Chatto and Windus 2005), 152-53.

55. Several YouTube videos capture the process of loading and firing eighteenth-century flintlock rifles. See for example “Loading and shooting a flintlock rifle slow motion,” December 19, 2014, video, 2:10,

56. Freund, “Men and Hunting Guns,” 32. 

57. See Brenda J. Buchanan, ed., Gunpowder, Explosives and the State: A Technological History (Farnham: Ashgate, 2006) for a historicized summary of the evolution of gunpowder.

58. See Stuart W. Pyhrr, “Snuffboxes that Shoot: Two Rococo Firearms,” in Philippe de Montebello and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977-2008 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009), 89-92; and Donald J. La Rocca, “Pattern Books by Gilles and Joseph Demarteau for Firearms Decoration in the French Rococo Styles,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 43 (2008): 141-55,

59. “French 20-Bore Flintlock Sporting Gun, Third quarter of the 18th century,” Antique Arms, Armour and Collectors Firearms, Christie’s, London, South Kensington, 26 September 2012, lot 75,

60. On the interactions between bodies and textiles in domestic contexts, see James Parker, “French Eighteenth-Century Furniture Depicted on Canvas,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 24, no. 5 (January 1966): 177-92; and Mimi Hellman, “Furniture, Sociability, and the Work of Leisure in Eighteenth-Century France,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 32, no. 4, Sites and Margins of the Public Sphere (Summer 1999): 415-45.

61. James M. Saslow, “‘Disagreeably Hidden”: Construction and Constriction of the Lesbian Body in Rosa Bonheur’s Horse Fair,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard (New York: Harper Collins, 1992), 187-206.