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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED JAPANESE COLLECTION

A shepherdess knitting

A shepherdess knitting
signed 'J.F.Millet' (lower right)
oil on canvas
10 3/4 x 8 3/4 in. (27.3 x 22.4 cm.)
with Cottier & Co., New York and London, by 1909.
Jaroslaw Leshko, Massachusetts, by 1975.
Rindoko Museum, Tochigi, Japan.
Private collection, Japan, 2020.
Ingres & Delacroix through Degas & Puvis de Chavannes: the figure in French art, 1800-1870, exh. cat., New York, 1975, no. 73, pp.175-176, illustrated.
New York, Shepherd Gallery, Ingres & Delacroix through Degas & Puvis de Chavannes: the figure in French art, 1800-1870, May - June 1975, no. 73.
Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Alastair Plumb
Alastair Plumb Specialist, Head of Sale, European Art

Lot Essay

Accurately capturing scenes of country life became Jean-François Millet’s primary artistic motivation from 1848, when he exhibited The Winnower (1847, National Gallery, London) in the Salon to acclaim. This marked a shift towards what would become a life-long interest in realistic representations of the rural community, rather than idealised imagery. This shift could have been politically motivated, as it was the year of the February Revolution, which led to the establishment of the Second Republic: upheaval and distress in the rural community was a factor that led to the revolution.
What is noticeable in these rural scenes is that Millet conveys a sense of parity and sympathy with his sitters. In the present lot, he observes the shepherdess with sympathy, and not as an outsider. This may have been political but was mainly due to his own experience of growing up in a rural family. He was born in Gruchy, a remote village close to Cherbourg in northern France. This understanding of the community gave his paintings a sensitivity, as he conveyed the loneliness and lethargy that was a distinctive part of the life of a shepherdess.
This painting depicts a shepherdess knitting a stocking whilst minding her flock, pictured as a singular cow. Shepherdesses became a familiar trope in Millet’s work during the 1850s and 60s. This was partly due to the social commentary associated with female rural labourers at the time, as they were paid particularly poorly, around half the amount that male workers were paid. In these scenes, Millet brings these often voiceless women to the forefront of fine art.
The work showcases Millet’s skill as a colourist, as he subtly introduces pigments to the picture plane. Millet looked to the work of the Old Masters in his practice, particularly that of Titian. In fact, the palette and application of paint in this work is reminiscent of Titian’s work Pastoral Concert (c.1509, Musée du Louvre). The softness of the paint application and the warmth of the light on the sitter’s skin has clear parallels to A Shepherdess Knitting. Both artists chose to present the sitters as unaware of the artist; the action continues uninterrupted. Millet’s work was able to take influence from the past whilst driving a naturalism, which became an important proponent in founding modernism.
We are grateful to Dr Alexandra Murphy for confirming the attribution to Millet in the basis of a photograph

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