Semester of Graduation

Summer 2021


Master of Arts (MA)


School of Art

Document Type



Joseph Ducreux was an eighteenth-century artist from Nancy, France, whose grimacing self-portraits made their way into to the Parisian Salons during the age of the French Revolution. His self-portraits showcased himself in a state of yawning, state of laughing, state of self-confidence, and state of fear. This series is believed to derive from his study of physiognomy and his knowledge of physiognomical studies by such Enlightenment scholars as Johann Kasper Lavater. It will contextualize Ducreux’s his oeuvre of self-portraits and his commercial portraits including those previously executed for the French court, with the influence of the pseudo-science of physiognomy. The first chapter is a biographical introduction to Ducreux’s life and how he became the first portraitist of Marie Antoinette in Austria. The first chapter will also go into discussions on how the French Revolution of 1789 allowed him to reinvent himself after the fall of the Ancien Regime. The following chapter will discuss physiognomy in the context of Enlightenment intellectual history. The final chapter will situate Ducreux’s iconography in a wider field of eighteenth-century artists who were influenced by physiognomy. Overall, the purpose of the thesis is to show how Joseph Ducreux used his study of physiognomy as a means to increase his visibility through self-identity and to anticipate modern marketing techniques as a portraitist to a wider audience.

Committee Chair

Darius Spieth