25 January 2012
Jean-Baptiste Greuze (Tournus 1725-1805 Paris)
A young girl at a window
oil on panel
18¾ x 15 5/8 in. (47.6 x 39.6 cm.)
Henry M. Pierpont.
G.T. Braine, 1857.
Adrian Hope; (+), Christie's, London, 30 June 1894, lot 26 (2900 gns. to Frickenhaus).
Baroness Mathilde de Rothschild, Gruneburg, Frankfurt am Main.
Edouard de Rothschild, Paris.
with Wildenstein, New York, from whom acquired by the father of the present owner in the 1950s.
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J. Smith, A catalogue raisonné..., London, 1836, VIII, p.419, no. 69.
J. Martin, A catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné de Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Paris, [n.d.], p. 32, no. 266.
British Gallery, London, 1835, no. 64.
This appealing depiction of a young girl, reddish brown hair framing her face and lips parted as she looks expectantly out a window, exemplifies the bust-length 'têtes d'expression' for which Greuze was well known. At the height of his career, Greuze used the format of finished head studies, often of young women and girls as in the present work, as a vehicle for portraying a variety of emotional states. His expressive and dramatic works often contain underlying moralizing content, following the idea that paintings should evoke life experience and provide examples for leading a virtuous life. Greuze also employed an innovative amalgam of visual traditions, drawing on the bright palette popular in eighteenth-century France and the naturalistic detail associated with seventeenth-century Dutch masters.
Heads such as the present work were popular among Greuze's contemporaries and were among the first eighteenth-century French paintings to return to favor with the mid-nineteenth-century renaissance of interest in the art of the Ancien Régime. Sophisticated collectors of the 1860s and 1870s recognized parallels between Greuze's sensual paintings and works by the most advanced artists of their own day, not least Gustave Courbet. In the nineteenth century, Greuze's paintings were again highly sought after by collectors. The present canvas was acquired by Mathilde de Rothschild (1852-1924), and is one of the many paintings by Greuze purchased by members of her family, often for very large sums of money.
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