Annette Bourrut Lacouture will include this painting in her forthcoming Breton catalogue raisonné and we thank her for her asssistance in cataloguing this lote.
Painted in 1863, Mère alaittant son bébé recalls the idealised Madonna and Child compositions of the Renaissance. The soft expression of the mother's face regarding the fragile figure of the child she holds to her breast creates an atmosphere of idealism inspired by Raphael and da Vinci. It was a theme which Breton used to great effect to support his utopian image of French peasant life and one which he returned to in 1873 when he painted Le repos des faneuses (sold in these rooms 16 October 1991, lot 87). In Le repos des faneuses the caring mother and child became the focus of a compositional grouping that suggests a relationship with aspects of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt. Here, a holy family, surrounded by adoring minions, creates an atmosphere of warmth and compassion for the nursing child and mother. In Mère alaittant son bébé the intimacy of the scene is emphasised by isolating the figures in a stark interior. It is interesting to note that the face of the young women appears to have the features of the sister-in-law of the painter, Constance Breton, wife of his brother Louis.