This painting is one of four that Corot executed for his friend, the critic Alfred Robaut (author of the main catalogue raisonné on the artist) around 1874. The four canvases are smaller versions of fresco panels that Corot had executed some 20 years earlier in his local church at Ville d'Avray.
The composition of the central figures in the present work harks back directly to Corot's painting of the same subject in 1845-47, the altarpiece for the church of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet in Paris -- the artist's first and only official commission (fig. 1). However, in its horizontal composition, motifs and feathery technique, it is expressed in the same artistic language as the plein air landscapes with which Corot is more typically associated.
According to Robaut, the canvases were sketched out by the artist with the assistance of his friend M.L. Desmarest, before being completed by Corot himself. Indeed, Martin Dieterle and Claire Lebeau have pointed out that by its remarkable balance, the composition and the most significant parts of the work were clearly executed by Corot.
This work has kindly been authenticated by Martin Dieterle and Claire Lebeau.