Chaplin’s celebrated portraits of young women are reminiscent of the 18th century romanticism of Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) and François Boucher (1703–1770) but his subjects are nevertheless recognisable as more modern Belle Epoque women. The critical and commercial success of Chaplin’s beautifully lit portraits of sensual young women captured en déshabillé established him as one of the foremost French academic painters of the period.
By the late 1850’s Chaplin was being inundated with commissions from the French aristocracy requesting portraits of their wives and daughters. Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, was also a big fan and appointed him an artist of the court. Her and her husband’s enthusiastic support would soon come in especially useful when, in 1859, the Chaplin’s portrait ‘Aurora’ was banned by the judges of the Salon for being “too erotically suggestive”. The disqualification order was subsequently overturned when Napoleon III himself sprung to Chaplin’s defence.
During his lifetime Chaplin was awarded numerous medals at the Paris Salon and in 1865 he was declared a Chevalier and later Officer of la Légion d’Honneur (1881). Today, works by Charles Chaplin are held in the collections of the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St Petersburg, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.