This painting will be included in the forthcoming Renoir catalogue critique being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute and established from the archive funds of François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.
This painting will be included in volume III or subsequent volumes of the Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles de Renoir being prepared by Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville published by Bernheim-Jeune.
In the 1890s Renoir had developed a very intimate style of portraiture that was well suited to portraying the family members, friends and neighbours he asked to pose for him. The sitter for the present work is Gabrielle Renard, who in 1894 joined the Renoir household at the age of 16, a month before Jean was born. Gabrielle remained with the family for the next twenty years, until her marriage to the American painter Conrad Slade in 1912. She soon became indispensable to the Renoirs, not only looking after the children and, later, the increasingly infirm artist, but also as Renoir's favourite and most frequent model, both as the protagonist of his domestic scenes and as the voluptuous nude which so preoccupied the artist post-1900.
'Renoir disliked professional models and Gabrielle had all the qualities he regarded as essential in a model. Her skin 'took the light', she had the small-breasted, wide-hipped body he preferred, she was natural and relaxed and she was available to pose at any time' (W. Gaunt, Renoir, Oxford, 1982, p. 47).
In Gabrielle à l'écharpe noire Renoir captures Gabrielle's innate beauty. She is posed naturalistically against a neutral background. Her rich dark black hair is pulled loosely back from her face; she is dressed in a simple red blouse with a scarf wrapped around her neck. The luminous quality of the painting is enhanced by the contrast between the dark of her hair and scarf and the subtle skin tones of her face. Moreover, the life-like portrayal of Gabrielle is enhanced by Renoir's delicate brushstrokes and soft modulation of palette.