Élisabeth Sophie Chéron, self-portrait, 1672
Élisabeth Sophie Chéron (3 October 1648, Paris – 3 September 1711, Paris) is remembered today primarily as a French painter, but she was acclaimed in her lifetime as a gifted poet, musician, artist, and academicienne.
She was trained by her artist father, while still a child, in the arts of enamelling and miniature painting. Her father was a rigid Calvinist, and endeavored to influence his daughter to adopt his religious belief, but her mother was a fervent Roman Catholic, and she persuaded Elizabeth to pass a year in a convent, during which time she ardently embraced the Catholic faith. At 22 she was admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture as a portrait painter under the sponsorship of the influential artist Charles Le Brun. She was the fourth woman painter to enter the academy, nine years after Catherine Girardon, and three years after Madeleine and Geneviève, the two daughters of Louis de Boullogne.
She exhibited regularly at the Salon, and at the same time produced poetry and translations. She was fluent in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. She published her book of Psalm paraphrases in 1694, as the, Essay de pseaumes et cantiques mis en vers, et enrichis de figures. Her literary talent was recognized in 1699 when she was named a member of the Accademia dei Ricovrati, in Padua, under the academician name of Erato. Her Psalms were later set to music by Jean-Baptiste Drouard de Bousset and Antonia Bembo, a Venetian noblewoman.
She was an affectionate daughter to both her parents and devoted her earnings to her brother Louis, who studied art in Italy. She was indifferent to proposals of marriage throughout her life, many from brilliant men in her intellectual circle. In 1692, at age 60, and to the surprise of her friends she married Jacques Le Hay, the King’s engineer, after which she was known as Madame Le Hay.
She died at aged sixty-three and is buried in the church of Saint Sulpice, Paris