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    Sale 1961

    Old Master And 19th Century Drawings

    24 January 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 122

    Jean-François Millet (Gruchy 1814-1875 Barbizon)

    The knitting lesson

    Price Realised  

    Jean-François Millet (Gruchy 1814-1875 Barbizon)
    The knitting lesson
    signed 'J.F. Millet'
    black chalk heightened with white
    14¼ x 11¾ in. (360 x 295 mm.)

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    According to Robert Herbert, 'this is the first of Millet's very finished drawings in which we see the Dutch manner that characterizes so many of his paintings and drawings' in the 1850's (in exhib. cat. London, 1976, p. 98). The subject, as well as the composition with the light entering from a window on the left in addition to the vanishing perspective of the floor, the almost empty wallls, the massing of the mother and child in a single sculptural unit, are all reminiscent of Dutch artists of the 17th Century, such as Maes, Terborch and Vermeer. It may not be a coincidence that the rediscovery of the latter was made in 1852 by Théophile Thoré, a close friend of Millet. However, as Herbert also noted 'the smooth surfaces and the careful geometry are the mark of the French painter,' and the name of another great admirer of the Dutch, Chardin, readily comes to mind.
    This drawing, remarkable for the use of delicate rubbing and scraping which confer very soft modelling, is closely related to a painting of the same subject measuring 46 x 38 cm. and dated circa 1854 now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Murphy 1984, op. cit, no. 58). The composition was then repeated with minor differences by Millet in three other paintings today at Williamstown, Boston and Saint Louis as well as in two later drawings (see exhib. cat. Jean-François Millet, Drawn into the Light, Williamstown and Pittsburgh, 1999, nos. 50-2).
    The present drawing has an illustrious provenance. It belonged in the early 20th Century to James-Staats Forbes (1823-1904), a railway manager who assembled more than one hundred Millet drawings (J.M. Cartwright, The Burlington Magazine, V, 1905, pp. 47-67, 118-59; VI, 1905, pp. 192-203, 360-9). It was then in the celebrated collection of Lord Clark of Saltwood where it remained until sold in 1986.


    James Staats-Forbes, London.
    Anonymous sale, Amsterdam, Mensing, 22-29 April 1937, lot 456.
    P.F. Richmond.
    Baron Cassel.
    Lord Clark of Saltwood, O.M., C.H., K.C.B, to his son
    The Hon. Alan Clark, M.P.; Sotheby's, London, 26 November 1986, lot 29.


    J.M. Cartwright, 'The Drawings of Jean-François Millet in the Collection of Mr. James Staats-Forbes' in The Burlington Magazine, V, 1905, p. 198, illus.
    L. Bénédite, Les dessins de J.-F. Millet, London and Philadelphia, 1906, illus.
    A.R. Murphy, Jean-François Millet, exhib. cat., Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 1984, p. 91, no. 58, p. 120, no. 81.


    Edinburgh, International Exhibition, French and Dutch Loan Collection, 1886, no. 82.
    London, Leicester Galleries, Staats-Forbes Collection of 100 Drawings by Jean-François Millet, 1906, no. 54.
    London, Aldeburgh and Cardiff, Drawings by J.F. Millet, organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1956, no. 53.
    London, Wildenstein, J.F. Millet, November-December 1969, no. 32.
    Paris, Grand Palais, Jean-François Millet, October 1975-January 1976, no. 90.
    London, The Arts Council of Great Britain, Jean-François Millet, January-March 1976, no. 48.