Jakobides began his studies in Athens in the 1870s under the preeminent genre painter Nikiforos Lytras. Following his graduation from the academy he received a scholarship to further his studies at the Academy of Fine Art in Munich where he continued his exploration of the relationships of parents, grandparents and children in his art. Following the conclusion of his studies in 1883 he elected to remain in Germany until 1900 when he returned to Athens to organize the National Gallery. His images from these years established him as one of the most important Greek painters of the 19th Century and earned him international success. He won medals in Munich in 1889, 1892 and 1895, and gold medals in Athens (1888), Berlin (1891), Munich (1893) and Paris (1900). In 1904 he assumed the role of Director to the National Gallery in Athens.
Mother and Child is a large scale work which can be dated to this formative period in Jakobides career. Jakobides was inspired by Dutch 17th Century artists who favored interior genre scenes, and in particular, he was drawn to the work of Frans Hals whose light and brushwork he imitated. His time at the Academy in Munich had also put him in contact with the concepts of naturalism being promoted in France. As with these artists he too based his subjects on observations from daily life, rendering them with superb draftsmanship and color. Jakobides had begun his studies in Athens as a sculptor and his eye for the three-dimensional depiction of figures is evident in the present painting. While on one level the painting can be seen as a simple genre scene, its obvious parallels to Renaissance models suggests a more elevated interpretation of Madonna and Child. Whereas some of his other pictures from this period use older grandparents as subjects such as Grandmother's Dearest (sold Christie's Athens, 9 December 1996, lot 64 for $244,245) and The First Steps (1892, Collection of E. Koutlidis Foundation), the model in Mother and Child is a beautiful young woman.
Mother and Child was purchased in 1890 by the American collector James J. Hill for which we have a copy of the original bill of sale date 5 April 1890 from Wimmer & Co., Munich. Hill made his fortune as the founder of the American Transcontinental Railroad Network and his collection was considered one of the finest in America. He set a high standard for his collection and bought only the best. "Make your standard high and live to it...do not pitch the key too low" (Quoted from the Inauguration of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 7 January 1915). His collection of Corots rivalled the Havemeyers of New York and Etienne Moreau-Nlaton of France. As testament to his superior eye please refer to lots by Corot, Courbet and Puvis de Chavannes which, together with the Jakobides, were also in the Hill collection.
(fig. 1) The artist in his studio