Eugène Devéria is best known as a painter of historical scenes, enjoying early success with his Naissance de Henri IV (Musée du Louvre) in 1827, and he also became an accomplished portrait artist. Between 1849 and 1856 he paid three visits to Scotland, exhibiting a total of 35 paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy, many of them portraits. Of the recorded titles of his exhibits only one seems to relate closely to the present picture, ‘The Reluctant Scholars – portraits of Mr G Barber’s sons’, exhibited at the RSA in 1852. In the absence of further information it has seemed reasonable to adopt this as a provisional title.
The boys, who carry fishing rods and a cricket bat, are evidently bent on outdoor pursuits. The younger boy wears a striped woollen sash that has been identified as typical of traditional French-Canadian costume; it was ‘tied around the waist to stop draughts of cold air from blowing up under their wide outer garments’.
For a comparable group portrait by Devéria see Sir Lawrence Davidson and his sons, in the exhibition catalogue Eugène Devéria 1805-1865. La peinture et l'histoire, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Pau, Pau, France, 16 December 2005 - 19 March 2006, p. 80.
The present painting will be included in Olivia Voisin's forthcoming Eugène Devéria catalogue raisonné.