The Wildenstein Institute will include this painting in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Pierre-Auguste Renoir established from the archives of Frangois Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.
We are grateful to Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville for confirming that this picture is included in their Bernheim-Jeune Archives as an authentic work.
It is highly likely that the sitter for Femme au coin du poêle is Gabriele Renard (1878-1959) who was hired in August 1894 to help Renoir's wife, Aline, who was then expecting her second child. Gabriele remained in the Renoir household for almost twenty years after Jean was born in September, becoming Renoir's favorite and most frequent model. "Renoir disliked professional models and Gabriele had all the qualities he regarded as essential in a model. Her skin 'took the light', she had the small-breasted, wide-hipped body he preferred, she was natural and relaxed and she was available to pose any time" (W. Gaunt, Renoir, Oxford, 1982, p. 47).
What interested Renoir most was the inherent beauty in Gabriele's simplicity which he would capture as she sat reading, sewing or, as here, tending the fire. However, while the subjects are often simple, he is still keen to imbue the works with a sense of sophistication reminiscent of his fashionable costume-pieces of the 1890s. Here, for example, Renoir delights in the enamel of the stove, the flame in the hearth and the sheen of Gabriele's pink blouse and white skirt.
Jean Renoir recalled his father saying, "I like painting best when it looks eternal without boasting about it: an everyday eternity, revealed on the street-corner: a serving girl, pausing a moment as she scours a saucepan, and becoming a Juno on Olympus" (as quoted in J. Renoir, Renoir, My Father, Boston, 1958, p. 233).R
Gabriele left the Renoir household around 1914, shortly before her marriage to the American painter, Conrad Slade. According to some accounts, Madame Renoir asked her to leave because, with her own increasing infirmity, she had become jealous of the painter's dependence on his maid and model.