We are grateful to Edgar Munhall for confirming the attribution to Greuze and in a written communication (dated 14 April 2003), he states: 'The present picture, in my opinion, is an autograph version of this subject painted by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) around 1790. I examined another fine one [private collection, Paris]... on panel. Another (on canvas) was sold by Sotheby's, New York on 3 June 1988, no. 117A' ($187,000).
The significance of the subject was touched on by the artist in a letter, 20 April 1790, to Prince Yousoupoff regarding a similar subject (L'Oiseau favori) that he had just painted for him: 'This dove which she presses against her heart so lovingly is nothing but the image of her love concealed beneath this emblem; her soul is moved with a sentiment so sweet and so pure that the most delicate woman could look at it with satisfaction, without being offended.' (quoted in L. Réau, 'Greuze et la Russie', Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français, 1922, p.285).
Robert Stanford Holford was one of the great English collectors of the nineteenth century and a founder of the Burlington Club. His collection was judged by Gustav Waagen as second only to that of the Marquess of Hertford. Indeed, Waagen in his seminal study of ninenteenth British collections, singles out the present work amongst the Holford paintings: 'GREUZE - Two of those paintings of young girls which are so popular in England. The one with the dove is remarkable for naiveté of conception, for transparency and delicate though subdued tone, and for careful execution' (Waagen, op. cit., 1854, p. 199).
Both Holford's country seat, Westonbirt and his London residence, Dorchester House were built for him by the architect Vulliamy. When the contents of Westonbirt were sold by Christie's, 17-21 October 1927, one of the rooms detailed in the sale catalogue was 'The Blue Drawing Room' (which corresponds to an old label on the reverse of the painting), although the present work was not a part of that sale.
In a period carved and gilded French frame with foliate and ribbon decoration.