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Jean-Baptiste Greuze (Tournus 1725-1805 Paris)
Jean-Baptiste Greuze (Tournus 1725-1805 Paris)

A girl at a parapet

Details
Jean-Baptiste Greuze (Tournus 1725-1805 Paris)
A girl at a parapet
oil on canvas
16¾ x 13 5/8 in. (42.5 x 34.6 cm.)
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Galerie Charpentier, 3-4 June 1958, no. 30, where acquired by Mlle. Donis.

Condition Report

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Lot Essay

This beautiful bust of a peasant child seems to be previously unpublished. It is characteristic of the many 'têtes d'expression' that Greuze produced from the 1760s onward, and that were a source of the tremendous popularity he enjoyed in his lifetime. Although these head studies could be rather rote and repetitive, the present example reveals Greuze at his most committed. The image displays the artist's deeply felt and well-observed ability to capture the seriousness and individual character of children. In her rustic costume of local dress, the child appears pensive and anxious, as she gazes up and out of the picture frame. Painted with creamy, broad brushstrokes that reproduce the thick folds of her blouse and the coarse fabric of her dress and hat, the painting immerses the child in a soft atmosphere of warm soft light and gentle, enveloping shadows. The beauty of Greuze's handling of paint, his effortless mastery of anatomy and his profound insight into human emotion seemed something entirely new and remarkable to 18th-century critics and public alike, more authentic and insightful than the works of any of his contemporaries. Indeed, Diderot would praise these very qualities in writing about a similar painting in the Salon of 1765: "What truth! What tonal variety! And these red blotches, who hasn't seen them on the faces of children who are cold or in pain from teeth coming in? And these tearful eyesand these blond tresses on her forehead, all mused, they're so light and one wants to push them back under her cap. Monsieur Drouais, come here, do you see this child? She's made of flesh. For truth and vitality of color, a little Rubens."

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