We are grateful to Madame Rolande Miquel who kindly authenticated the present work on the basis of a photograph.
Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña overcame the hardships of his early life to become one of the most respected artists of the 19th century. Born in Bordeaux to Spanish parents who were fleeing Joseph Bonaparte's Spain, Diaz de la Peña was orphaned by the age of 10. Following an accident, he lost his leg to blood poisoning.
While under the care of a priest near Paris, he apprenticed at the studios at Sevres and by the age of 15 he began painting porcelain. Simultaneously, Narcisse began to copy and study the works of the great masters in the Louvre. He was particularly drawn to the works of Correggio and Watteau, and to the works of the Colourists. Narcisse also learnt from his contemporaries, in particular from Delacroix's orientalist works. His meeting with Rousseau at Barbizon in 1836 was crucial to Narcisse's artistic development, as Rousseau introduced him to the great Dutch masters and encouraged him to paint landscapes. Narcisse thrived in this genre and thus became one of the leading lights of the Barbizon movement as he developed his unique style. This school would dominate French landscape painting throughout the 1860s, in which the artists painted en plain air trying to capture faithfully the natural world on canvas. Narcisse also became well-known for his depictions of figures, conceived with broad brushstrokes and colour rather than line. The present work is a portrait of Narcisse's daughter Marie, lovingly executed in Narcisse's personal style conveying the sweet but reserved character of the child.
During the 1840s Narcisse was awarded three Salon gold medals for painting and in 1851 was named a Knight of the Legion of Honour.
His works can be found in most major museums throughout the world, in particular the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Wallace Collection, the National Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Victoria and Albert Museum.