Upon hearing the news of the outbreak of war with Germany, Le Corbusier fled Paris with his wife Yvonne, escaping to the hill-side town of Vézelay in Burgundy. It was here, during the tumultuous early days of the conflict, that the artist produced this beautiful watercolour, inspired by his wife’s strength and serenity in the face of such danger and uncertainty. Rendered in monumental form, Yvonne’s body is captured by the artist in a series of flowing, sinuous lines, the elegant curves of her arms and torso delineated using sweeping strokes of ink. Describing her long neck and aquiline nose with delicate precision, Le Corbusier captures a sense of his wife’s likeness whilst simultaneously transforming her into the symbolic embodiment of the ‘guardian angel of the home,’ a title he frequently ascribed to his partner during their life together. In a later version of the composition, a detailed rendering of the a-symmetrical western façade of the Cathedral of Sens is visible through the open portal to Yvonne’s left, although here the space beyond its edges remains devoid of any such monuments.
In this way, Le Corbusier portrays his beloved wife as the master of an archetypal domestic sphere, the ‘queen of a small fervent world,’ as the artist would later describe her in a letter to his mother (Le Corbusier, from a letter to his mother, October 1957, quoted in N. Jornod and J. Jornod, Le Corbusier: Catalogue raisonne´de l’oeuvre peint, Tome II, Milan, 2005, p. 758).