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    Sale 11932


    13 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 4

    Jean-Baptiste Greuze (Tournus 1725-1805 Paris)

    Maman ('The Good Mother')

    Price Realised  


    Jean-Baptiste Greuze (Tournus 1725-1805 Paris)
    Maman ('The Good Mother')
    Black chalk, pen and black ink, brown and grey wash
    12 1/2 x 10 3/4 in. (31.7 x 27.4 cm.)

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    Little is known about Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s views or activities during the Revolution. He painted few contemporary events though his portraits of the Enlightenment thinker Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne (1756-1819), an associate of Robespierre during the Terror, indicate an awareness and engagement with the changing intellectual and political currents in late 18th-and early 19th century France. Greuze was, of course, familiar with the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and his concept of moral character being defined in childhood, ideas he introduced into this composition.

    The Good Mother displays this Rousseau-inspired idea of family life. In this composition, a peasant mother attempts to feed her child while her other eager child pushes him out of the way. Throughout his career Greuze infused these domestic scenes of peasant life with moral overtones, often conceiving of compositions as pendants contrasting good and bad behavior. In The Good Mother the two children display contrasting characters. Greuze explored similar themes in other drawings such as The Spoiled Child and The Beloved Mother, both in the Albertina, Vienna (see E. Munhall, Greuze the Draftsman, exh. cat., The Frick Collection, New York, 2002, pp. 112-114, no. 33; and pp. 136-137, no. 43). Another drawing from the 1760s which also belonged to de Damery, and which was also engraved by Beauvarlet is entitled The Chestnut Vendor ('La marchande de marrons') and shows a similar range of emotions among the children approaching the vendor (Munhall, op. cit., pp. 68-9, no. 14). All three were probably executed in the 1760s, as was The Good Mother.

    Many of Greuze’s drawings, were the basis for engraved compositions which served as a lucrative source of revenue for the artist. The Good Mother was engraved by Jacques Firmin Beauvarlet (1731-1797) (fig. 1). An inscription beneath the composition which alludes to the child’s jealousy reads:

    La jalousie est de tout age;
    Entre ces deux enfans que ton Coeur se partage.
    Mère, dans la famille étouffe la soudain:
    En ne fais pas de Benjamin.

    The print also bears the arms of Jean Louis Antoine le Vaillant de Damery, the Chevalier de Damery (1723-1803), an officer in the royal navy and close friend and patron of Greuze who was once the owner of the present drawing. De Damery fell into financial hardship in the latter half of the 18th century and was forced to sell his extensive collection and estate before retiring to the Invalides where he remained until his death. The drawing was subsequently owned by two other esteemed French collectors, the Marquis de Lagoy (1764-1829), and Alfred Beaurdeley (1847-1919).


    Jean-Louis-Antoine le Vaillant, chevalier de Damery, Paris.
    Anonymous sale; Paris, 3 February 1778, lot 620 (140 livres).
    Marquis de Lagoy (L. 1710); Paris, 17-19 April 1834, lot 241.
    W. Russell (L. 2648); Christie’s, London, 10-12 December 1884, lot 351 (3gns. 10pc.).
    A. Beurdeley (L. 421); Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 13-15 March 1905, lot 97.
    Alfred Mame, Tours.
    An unidentified collector's mark (L. 2508).
    An unidentified mounter's mark ('AC') on the mount (L. 3062).

    Pre-Lot Text



    J. Smith, A catalogue raisonné of works of the most eminent…French painters, London, 1837, VIII, p. 440, no. 155.
    G.F. Waagen, Galleries and cabinets of art in Great Britain, London, 1857, p. 188.
    C. Normand, J.B. Greuze, Paris, 1892, pp. 46-48.
    J. Martin, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint et dessiné de Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Paris, 1908, pp. 23-24, no. 325.
    M. Roux, Inventaire du fonds français: graveurs du dix-huitième siècle, Paris, 1933, II, p. 227, under no. 50.


    London, Grosvenor Gallery, Winter exhibition of drawings by the Old Masters…, 1877-1878, no. 1069.
    New York, Wildenstein, Masterworks on paper, September-October 1975.
    Tokyo, Wildenstein, Maîtres du dessin français au 18ème siècle, October-November 1977, no. 13.
    Nishinomiya, Otani Museum of Fine Arts, Exposition Rococo: poésie et rêve de la peinture française au XVIIIe siècle, January-February 1978, no. 16.