Mignon Pensive was painted when Bouguereau was at the height of his career. That same year he had just completed Apollo and the Muses on Olympus for the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux exhibited in the Salon of 1869.
Fronia E. Wissman writes, "In the pastoral tradition the peasant was seen to possess a simple and honest character, living an equally simple life, in tune with nature and apart from, even ignorant of, artifice....The image of the peasant changed somewhat in the mid-nineteenth century, when artists, notably Millet, actually lived in the countryside ...... and were able to observe the lives of the country people as they lived it. This more direct view of peasant life introduced into the world of art was unsettling to the Parisian audiences, especially in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1848, an event that once again overthrew the monarchy and brought "the common man" to prominence. Much more comforting was the retardataire view of peasants as slightly exotic outsiders. Peasant status - that is, female peasant status, as Bouguereau painted female figures almost exclusively - was signalled by clothing and setting: simple white blouses, solid overdresses, shawls that could be patterned with flowers or plaid, worn by invariably barefoot figures sitting, standing, or lying in a wooden glen, a field, or a grazing ground." (F. Wissman, Bouguereau, Rohnert Park, 1996, pp. 49-50)
In 1866 Bouguereau left Durand-Ruel for the rival gallery Goupil who had offered him an exclusive contract for his work. Our work dates to this period and shows the meticulous attention to detail which established his reputation on both sides of the Atlantic. The artist was known to sketch the folds of drapery and the hands and feet of his models for hours at a time in his studio in an effort to achieve accuracy in his paintings. This is supremely illustrated in the delicate positioning of the hands of the young woman and in the texture of the material of her sleeves. The sense of realism is further emphasized by the play of light in its varied tones as it strikes her face.
This work was authenticated by the late Mark Steven Walker.