Roads and paths are recurring motifs in Corot’s works. From his youth, the artist was particularly fond of depicting lanes that ascend or descend into the distance. The paths around the artist’s home in Ville d’Avray were a constant source of inspiration from the date of the present lot onwards.
The house in Ville d’Avray at 3, rue du Lac, where Corot lived for the greater part of his life, was purchased by his father, Louis Jacques Corot, on 4 March 1817. The house was first recorded in 1783 and by the time the elder Corot purchased the property the house was fairly substantial, with two floors and an attic. Until his death, Corot occupied a very small room with two windows overlooking the lake, on the third floor. Rue du Lac, which became known as ‘chemin de Corot’, connected the forests of Sevres with the village of Ville d’Avray and separated the Corot property from the pond. Views of this pond, Corot's own house and the distinctive Cabassud houses populate works throughout Corot’s oeuvre, however the artist always took certain liberties with the landscape and the architecture.
Painted circa 1845-1850, the present lot depicts a woman herding her cow along a path in the fading light of evening. Corot has captured perfectly the misty light of early evening, when the contours of the landscape flatten out and the colors meld into each other. At the end of day, when the shadows disappear but before the sun sets, the greens take on a grayer tone. The figures are placed high in the landscape, at the front of the picture plane, while the landscape descends before them to the lake in the middle ground. The Corot house, as identified by Martin Dieterle, is seen through the mist and identifies the distant background. The bright red of the woman’s scarf punctuates the almost monotone quality of the colors of the landscape and draws the attention of the viewer into the picture plane, following the line of the path toward the comfort and security of home.
We are grateful to Claire Lebeau and Martin Dieterle for confirming the authenticity of this work.