This work will be included in the forthcoming supplement of the Edouard Vuillard catalogue critique currently being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute.
Etude pour Le lacet de la bottine represents Vuillard's ongoing focus on the quiet intimacy of domestic life, wherein he repeatedly painted his close friends and family in their surroundings. Elizabeth Easton has written, "The interior was the locus of the family, a place where Vuillard beheld the quiet dignity of labor and its characteristic gestures. Family life, confined within these ever-present walls, aroused Vuillard's most powerful emotions, so that his interiors also function as theaters within which the family enacted the compelling drama of everyday life" (The Intimate Eye of Edouard Vuillard, Katonah, 1989, p. 14).
The present work is a study for Le lacet de la bottine, 1917-1918 (A. Salomon and G. Cogeval, no. X-205), which depicts the same exact scene in the sitting-room in the rue de Naples, with Madame Hessel seated on the right while a kneeling maid laces up one of her boots. The figures’ facial characteristics and expressions are deliberately concealed, and the door left ajar in the background evokes a slight sense of hostility or uneasiness in the work (perhaps a silent nod to the society’s class distinctions and inequalities). The room is elaborately decorated, with various elements competing for the viewer’s attention: the fireplace in the foreground draped with lacework fabric, the walls filled with framed oil paintings (including Vuillard’s portrait of Lucy Hessel in blue), the ornate ceiling, or the richly patterned carpet and upholstery.
Although the finished work is painted in oil on cardboard, the present study was painted with Vuillard’s preferred medium, peinture à la colle or distemper. According to Belinda Thomson, Vuillard "first used colle as a scene-painter in the theatre and liked its quick-drying properties as well as its chalky, unreflective surface, which harmonized well in an interior setting...In cultivating a dry, matt quality, Vuillard was in tune with most of the decorative painters of his generation who, in the wake of Puvis and Gauguin, sought to avoid the illusion of depth and reflective properties associated with oil paint and to approximate, in different ways, the flat wall-enhancing effects of fresco" (Vuillard, New York, 1988, p. 44).