The principal preparatory drawing for one of Millet's last major landscape paintings of the Chailly Plain outside Barbizon, Autumn
Landscape with a Flock of Turkeys (now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), this sketch assembles all crucial ingredients of that effecting painting: a solitary woman guarding a flock of scavenging turkeys, a cart loaded high with winter firewood, a single tree shedding its last leaves. The tiny sketch repeating the turkey girl at lower left suggests the principal change that would be introduced in the painting itself, a greater emphasis on the figure who was raised above the horizon and silhouetted against the graying sky. Although Millet was working on the painting in February of 1873, this drawing probably dates to about 1870.
The verso sketch of a woman in long flowing dress welcoming a bird through an open window is very unusual in Millet's oeuvre for its literary or allegorical overtones. Although the subject is uncertain, the drawing may represent Millet's effort to commemorate the seige of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, when homing pigeons were used to carry messages into the captive city. A similar theme was taken up in 1871 by Puvis de Chavannes.
We are grateful to Alexandra Murphy for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.