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Marquise Jean-François-René-Almaire de Bréhan (Anne Flore Millet)
(probably Sparta, N. Y., 1812 - 1846, Washington, D.C.)

Anne Flore Millet, the marquise de Bréhan, was an amateur painter and member of the French royal court. A daughter of the receiver general of Moulins, she became lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette and, for a time, enjoyed the fickle queen's favoritism. She may have received artistic training from court portraitist Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun. In 1766, Millet wed the Marquis Jean-François-René-Almaire de Bréhan (1730-1813) and bore a son four years later. Marriage to a man almost twenty years her senior proved unhappy and the marquise engaged in several affairs with other members of the court. After the death of her sister Antoinette-Louise in 1783, Bréhan formed a life-long attachment with her widowed brother-in-law, Elénor-François-Elie, Comte de Moustier (1751-1817). When he was named France's minister to the United States in 1787, the marquise and her son traveled with Moustier to America, where rumors about them strained relations between the two nations. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, future president James Madison noted with disdain that Moustier:

    suffers from his illicit connection with Madame de Brehan which is universally known and offensive to American manners. She is perfectly soured toward this country. The ladies of New York (a few within the official circle excepted) have for some time withdrawn their attentions from her. She knows the cause, is deeply stung by it, views everything thro [sic] the medium of rancor and conveys her impressions to her paramour over whom she exercises despotic sway.

To assuage the diplomat's ruffled sensibilities, Washington welcomed the count to Mount Vernon in November 1788, accompanied by "the Lady, who has taken so much interest in the new world," and her son. During the visit, Bréhan likely conceived the miniature of Washington that she completed when he sat for her in New York on October 3, 1789. Two weeks later, Bréhan and Moustier sailed for France, taking the miniature with them so that engraved copies could be made for Washington's admirers in Europe and America.

A militant royalist, Bréhan followed Moustier into exile during the French Revolution. The artist traveled to his ambassadorial posts in Berlin, Constantinople, and London, where they lived among fellow émigrés. While in England, Bréhan completed her most well-known work, a portrait of the widowed Marie-Antoinette imprisoned in the Temple shortly before her execution (Musée Caranavalet, Paris). The deposed queen wears a grisaille miniature of her children strikingly similar to the artist's double-sided portrayal of George Washington and Nelly Custis. The marquise returned to France only after the monarchy's restoration in 1814 and died there in 1826.

Click on an image below for more information on Marquise Jean-François-René-Almaire de Bréhan's miniatures.

George Washington (1732-1799) LL.D. 1781
Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis (Mrs. Lawrence Lewis) (1799-1852), verso of George Washington (1732-1799) LLD. 1781

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