Jean-Baptiste Pillement

The Interrupted Sleep by Francois Boucher (1750)
The Interrupted Sleep by Francois Boucher (1750)

Louis XIV, known as the Sun King died in 1715, at the age of seventy-seven after reigning for seventy-two years.  He had outlived all his legitimate children and two of his eldest grandchildren so his crown passed to his youngest grandchild, Louis Duke of Anjou, who became Louis XV at the age of five (the same age his grandfather was when he became Louis XIV) and his kingdom was ruled by his maternal great-uncle, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans as Regent of France, until Louis reached maturity in 1723.  The Duke of Orléans had a passion for beauty and cheerfulness and he tried to dismantle the godliness enforced by Louis XIV at his sumptuous home in Versailles. Following numerous wars under the previous monarch, France turned away from these imperial aspirations and instead, concentrated on more personal, and enjoyable pastimes. With this more relaxed political life and the letting-up of private morals, the change was mirrored by a new style in art, one that was intimate, decorative, and often erotic.  It was the era of Rococo.

Meeting in the Open Air by Jean-Antoine Watteau (c.1719)
Meeting in the Open Air by Jean-Antoine Watteau (c.1719)

Members of the new royal court began to decorate their sophisticated homes in a lighter, more delicate manner. This new style which came into being around the start of the 18th century has been known since the last century as “rococo,” from the French word, rocaille, for rock and shell garden ornamentation. The rococo style emphasized pastel colours, sinuous curves, and patterns based on flowers, vines, and shells. Artists moved away from depictions of lofty grandiloquence and instead focused on the pleasures of both colour and light, and also moved away from depictions of momentous religious and historical subjects and concentrated more on informal, friendly and relaxed mythological scenes as well as  joyous views of daily life, and elegant sophisticated portraiture.  When we think about rococo art we think of Jean-Antoine Watteau, François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard but today I am looking at the life and works of a lesser known rococo artist, Jean-Baptiste Pillement.

The Gardens of Benfica by Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1785)
The Gardens of Benfica by Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1785)

Jean-Baptiste Pillement was born in Lyon, France on May 24th 1728.  He received his first artistic training as a teenager from the French painter, Daniel Sarrabat in Lyon.  The training he received gave him an excellent foundation in the Rococo style of genre painting which had become so popular through the works of Jean-Antoine Watteau and François Boucher.  In 1743, aged fifteen, Pillement moved from his home town to Paris where he was taken on as a design apprentice at the Manafacture des Gobelins, a tapestry factory, which is best known as a royal factory supplying the court of the French monarchs.   In 1745 he left Paris and travelled to Spain and remained there for five years. He spent those years moving from city to city earning money sometimes as a designer other times as a painter.

Landscape with Travelers and a Ruin by Jean-Baptiste Pillement
Landscape with Travelers and a Ruin
by Jean-Baptiste Pillement

One recurring theme depicted in his paintings was that of rugged landscapes, shepherds with their flocks of sheep and goats cross fast flowing streams by way of rickety bridges, on either side of the cascading water we see lush green vegetation all of which was bathed in the golden glow of sunlight.

In 1750, after five years in Spain, the twenty-two-year-old Pillement journeyed to Lisbon where he was to remain for four years.  In 1754 Pillement left the Iberian Peninsula and travelled to London.  The favoured artistic genre of the English at that time was landscape painting and this meant that Pillement’s Rococo-style of romanticised landscape art was in much demand.  One of the popular artists at that time whose work was to influence Pillement was Nicolaes Berchem, the highly regarded and prolific Dutch Golden Age painter who painted numerous works depicting pastoral landscapes in the seventeenth century.

Landscape with a waterfall and the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli by Nicolaes Berchem
Landscape with a waterfall and the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli by Nicolaes Berchem

Berchem was part of the second generation of “Dutch Italianate landscape” painters who had travelled to Italy to take in the romanticism of the country and who would later return home to the Netherlands with sketchbooks full of drawings of classical ruins and pastoral imagery. Like Pillement, a century later, Berchem’s works were based on the Arcadian landscapes of the French painter Claude Lorrain which would typically depict shepherds grazing their flocks among Classical ruins, bathed in a golden sunlit haze.

The Mouth of the River Tagus by Jean-Baptiste Pillement
The Mouth of the River Tagus by Jean-Baptiste Pillement

During his sojourn in the English capital he became friends with the English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer David Garrick and his wife, the dancer, Eva Maria Weigel.  Garrick had become quite wealthy through his acting and this allowed he and his wife to buy a palatial estate in Richmond-on-Thames which became known as Garrick’s Villa.  Eva Marie Weigel became an art collector and furnished the house with paintings, many of which were by Jean-Baptiste Pillement.

A Mountainous River Landscape by Jean-Baptiste Pillement
A Mountainous River Landscape by Jean-Baptiste Pillement

In 1763, Pillement was once again on the move, this time leaving London and travelling to Vienna.  His reputation as a successful painter gave him the opportunity to move in royal circles and was employed at the Imperial Court of Maria Theresa and Francis I.

Chinoiserie by Jean-Baptiste Pillement
Chinoiserie by Jean-Baptiste Pillement

In the eighteenth century, prints of designs was the foremost way of spreading information. They were often published monthly and were collected into folios or volumes, and people could order them by subscription. There was a massive demand throughout Europe, for these prints.   Pillement, whilst living in England, soon realised that the fashion there was the same as that in France, and, at the time, was the love of chinoiseries.  It was around 1764 that Pillement, according to his memoirs, had discovered a new method of printing on silk with fast colours.   Pillement’s illustrations were a blend of fanciful birds, flora & fauna, incorporating large human figures and chinoiserie.  The word, chinoiserie came from the French word Chinois, meaning “Chinese” and is a European version and simulation of Chinese and East Asian artistic traditions, especially in the field of decorative arts.  It first became popular during the 17th century and this trend was further commercialised in the 18th century with the boom in trade with China and East Asia.   The chinoiserie style is associated with the Rococo style with its cheerfulness, its concentration on materials, and often depicts times of great pleasure and leisure time.

One of Jean Baptiste Pillement's Ornamental Design for the book Nouvelle suite de cahiers chinois a l'usage des Dessinateurs et des peintres.
One of Jean Baptiste Pillement’s Ornamental Design for the book Nouvelle suite de cahiers chinois a l’usage des Dessinateurs et des peintres.

These beautiful and intricate designs were used by engravers and decorators not only on porcelain and pottery, but also on textiles, wallpaper and silver. Pillement published many albums, of these illustrations, the most famous being Œùvre de fleurs, ornements, cartouches, figures et sujets chinois which was published in 1776.

After Vienna, Pillement’s next stop, in 1765, was Poland and the city of Warsaw where he once again worked for the royal court of the Polish king, Stanislaw II, who commissioned him to decorate the Royal Castle in Warsaw and the nearby Ujazdowski Castle.

Inside Le petit Trianon
Inside Le petit Trianon

Pillement was forever on the move.  He worked in Saint Petersburg, the Piedmont, Milan, Rome and Venice as well as returning to his homeland where he was employed by Marie Antoinette to furnish the Petit Trianon, a small château located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles which was built between 1762 and 1768 during the reign of Louis XV.   Its purpose was to house Louis XV’s long-term mistress, Madame de Pompadour, who sadly died four years before its completion.  However, all was not lost, as the Petit Trianon was subsequently occupied by her successor, Madame du Barry. When Louis XV died in 1774 he was succeeded by his son Louis-Auguste who became Louis XVI and when he came to the throne he gave the Petit Trianon to his wife Marie Antoinette whom he had married in 1770 when he was just fifteen years of age, the same age as his bride. In 1778 Pillement was nominated Court Painter to Queen Marie Antoinette, in which capacity he provided paintings for the Petit Trianon at Versailles.

A View of Lisbon by Jean-Baptiste Pillement
A View of Lisbon by Jean-Baptiste Pillement

During the 1780’s Pillement was living once again on the Iberian Peninsula where he completed many of his most treasured works of art.  In Portugal, he became one of that country’s leading landscape and marine artists. He was also named Court Painter to Queen Maria I and King Pedro III, at last accepting the honour and pension that he had declined when he lived and worked in the country some thirty-five years earlier. It was during this second stay that he also gained a reputation as one of Portugal’s finest teachers of art.

Landscape with Washerwomen by Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1792)
Landscape with Washerwomen by Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1792)

He eventually returned to France in 1789 but instead of returning to Paris  he settled in a small town of Pézenas, in the Val d’Hérault in the Languedoc region.  In 1800, aged 72, he returned to his birthplace, Lyon, where he continued to paint.  On September 1st 1801 the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte signed a famous decree, Decree of 14 Fructidor, the so-called Chaptal Decree, named after the famous chemist Jean-Antoine Chaptal, who was the minister for the interior from 1800–04.  The decree offered the fifteen newly founded museums the art treasures which had been captured from “the enemies of the Republic”.  In the main, these were post-Revolution confiscations effected in France, but also included artwork which had been seized elsewhere in Europe by the Republican and, later, Napoleonic armies. In Lyon, in 1801, the founding of the Musée des Beaux-Arts Lyon. The institution also fulfilled local aspirations, such as recalling the city’s prestigious Roman past and furnishing models for the silk industry, which was in crisis at that time.  And at the beginning of 1803, the Louvre Museum began to send a total of 110 paintings to be housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts Lyon.  Jean-Baptiste Pillement was employed at the museum to give art lessons which he continued doing for the rest of his life.

Fête Champêtre black chalk drawing by Jean-Baptiste Pillement
Fête Champêtre
black chalk drawing by Jean-Baptiste Pillement

Pillement achieved success not only as a landscape painter but was also one of the most influential decorators of the eighteenth century. His chinoiseries, arabesques and flower paintings providing elegant leitmotives for furniture makers, tapestry weavers, and particularly when he returned late in life to the south of France, he did much work for the silk industry of Lyon (Manufacture de Soie et des Indiennes), where he ended his distinguished career.

River Landscape by Jean-Baptiste Pellement
River Landscape by Jean-Baptiste Pellement

Jean-Baptiste Pillement died in Lyon in 1808, aged 80.  He will be remembered for his exquisite and delicate landscapes, but most of all for his engravings done after his drawings, and their influence in spreading the Rococo style and particularly the taste for chinoiserie throughout Europe.

In Maria Gordon-Smith’s 2006 book, Pillement, she commented:

“…the name Jean Pillement can evoke visions of Arcadian landscapes, luminous seascapes, and highly polished pastels and drawings. To the cognoscenti of decorative arts, Pillement is recalled as having been the most prolific and successful master of Rococo fantasy of his time. His designs were adopted by countless leading artistic manufactories, and their charm has never waned…”

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Camille-Joseph-Étienne Roqueplan

Camille-Joseph-Étienne Roqueplan
Camille-Joseph-Étienne Roqueplan

My featured artist today is the 19th century French Romantic painter and lithographer, Camille-Joseph-Étienne Roqueplan .   He was born in the small town of Mallemort which lies thirty-five kilometres south west of Avignon, but his family moved to Paris when he was still quite young.  He came from a well-to-do and cultured family and his younger brother Louis-Victor-Nestor Roqueplan went on to become a well-known writer, journalist, and co-director of the Paris Opera. Contrary to most young people who want to become artists despite opposition from their parents, Camille Roqueplan was wary about having art as his future profession despite his father’s encouragement that this should be his future path.  Camille liked to paint, but he believed art was just something to do for relaxation and should not be conceived as a future profession for he was adamant that his future lay in medicine.  His foray into studying medicine and anatomy was brief and having failed his first set of exams he went to work in the same office as his father, as a clerk in the Department of Finance.  This bureaucratic career was also short lived as he became bored and so after many career false starts he returned to painting

In February 1818, shortly after Camille’s eighteenth birthday he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he received his initial art tuition in the workshop of the French artist, Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujol, but remained with him for just a short period before working in the studio of Antoine-Jean Gros, the French history and neo-classical painter, where he learnt to paint landscapes, marine paintings, historical subjects and genre scenes.  He used both the mediums of watercolours and oil and was taught the secrets of lithography, which at the time was a new method of printmaking.  He remained in Antoine-Jean Gros’ workshop for three years.

he Pardon Refused by Camille-Joseph-Étienjne Roqueplan (c.1829)
he Pardon Refused by Camille-Joseph-Étienjne Roqueplan (c.1829)

One of Roqueplan’s fellow students at L’ École des Beaux-Arts was the Nottingham-born, English painter Richard Parkes Bonnington, eighteen months younger than Roqueplan, who had moved to Paris when he was fourteen years of age and began studying at the  École des Beaux-Arts in 1820.  Bonnington favoured landscape painting and this no doubt influenced Roqueplan who began to produce small-scale paintings including some landscape works.  Roqueplan was also influenced by the works of the Scottish historical novelist, Sir Walter Scott and in 1824 he completed a work entitled Historical Landscape based on Scott’s novel, Quentin Durward.  Another small painting by Roqueplan, which he completed around 1829,  also featured characters from a Sir Walter Scott romantic tragedy novel, Kenilworth, in which we see the heroine Amy Robsart pleading for forgiveness from her father, Sir Hugh Robsart but he is untouched by her tearful pleadings.  This work, entitled The Pardon Refused, is housed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Lion in Love by Roqueplan (1836)
The Lion in Love by Roqueplan (1836)

Around 1835, Roqueplan changes his painting style from small landscape paintings to large-scale anecdotal works and one of his most famous of these can be seen at the Wallace Collection in London.  It was completed by Roqueplan in 1836, in time to be exhibited at that year’s Salon in Paris.  It is a large painting, measuring 219cms x 174cms and is entitled The Lion in Love.  The work is all about the power of love even if it is at the expense of wisdom.  I am sure many of us know how that feels!    The painting is based on a fable written by the Jean de la Fontaine, who was the most famous French writer of fables and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century.   There are 243 of these fables, originally written in French, by the poet in the late 1600’s which have since been translated in to many different languages.   The Lion in Love is a sad tale which tells of a noble lion, which has fallen in love with a shepherdess.  His love for the girl is so strong that he  unwisely consents to her father’s demand that his teeth and claws are clipped lest they should hurt his daughter .  The lion does not see through the father’s trickery and when his teeth and claws are paired down, his defence mechanism is rendered ineffectual, enabling the father to set his dogs on the defenceless lion.  The question of who shaves down the teeth and claws of the lion is not told in the poem but in Roqueplan’s painting he depicts the act being carried out by the shepherdess herself.  Maybe Roqueplan was drawing a parallel with the biblical tale of Delilah shaving off the hair of Samson, which rendered him defenceless.  Below is an English translation of the poem by Jean De La Fontaine which I found on the Aesop’s Fables website.

THE LION IN LOVE

 

Sévigné, whose attractiveness

Serves as a model to Beauties,

You were born so beautiful,

In case you are indifferent,

Would you be enclined

To an innocent Fable’s games,

And see, without fear,

A lion  tamed by Love?

Love is a strange master.

Happy is he who experiences it

Only through tales, minus its pains!

When it is told in front of you,

If  the truth offends you,

The Fable at least can be endured:

It is bold enough

To come offer itself at your feet,

By zeal or by gratitude.

In the times when animals spoke,

Lions among others wanted

To be accepted in our circles.

Why not? since their   kins

Were worth ours back in those times,

Having courage, intelligence,

And a beautiful head, moreover.

Here is how it happened:

A Lion from highly ranking parents,

While walking through a certain pasture,

Met a Sheperdess to his liking :

He asked for her in marriage.

The father would have preferred

A son-in-law a little less scary.

To give her to him seemed very harsh;

To refuse her was not so wise;

Even a rejection might have  made it possible

That some fine morning we’d have seen

A clandestine marriage.

Furthermore anyway

The beautiful girl was meant for noble people,

-Daughter becomes easily infatuated with

A long  maned lover.

So the father openly

Not daring to dismiss the lover,

Said to him: “My daughter is delicate;

Your claws could wound her

When you’ll wish to caress her.

Allow therefore that each paw of yours

Be declawed, and that your teeth,

Be filed down at the same time.

Your kisses will be less harsh,

And for you more delicious;

Because my daughter will respond to them better,

Being without these worries.

The Lion consented,

His heart was so blinded!

Without teeth or claws here he is,

Like a dismantled room.

A few dogs were turned aloose on him:

He did not resist much.

Love, Love when thou holdest us

One can well say: “Farewell prudence.”

In 1830, on the abdication of Charles X of France, a new king was crowned.  He was Louis Philippe and it was he who decided that some of the palace rooms at Versailles should be set aside for a Museum of the History of France.  These rooms were then filled with a large collection of paintings from the likes of Philippe de Champaigne, Charles Le Brun, Jacques-Louis David, Antoine Jean Gros, Rubens and the great female artist of the time, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and one room was designated as the Galerie des Batailles (Hall of Battles) in which works depicting great French battles could be displayed.  Roqueplan contributed a work entitled  Battle of Elchingem ,which he completed in 1837, and featured a scene from the October 1805 battle between the victorious French forces under Marshal Ney and the Austrian army around the town of Elchingem in south west Bavaria

Peasants of the Béarn by Roqueplan (1846)
Peasants of the Béarn by Roqueplan (1846)

 Roqueplan’s health deteriorated in 1843 and as an aid to recovery he spent time in the foothills of the Pyrennees with its fresher and cleaner air.  He remained there for three years during which time he painted many scenes depicting mountainous landscapes and peasant life.  One such work can be found at the Wallace Collection in London with the title Peasants of the Béarn dated 1846.  Béarn is a French province in the Basse-Pyrenees and one of the geographical features of this province is the Ossau Valley.  It may be more than just a coincidence, but at the 1847 Salon, the year after the completion date given to  Peasants of the Béarn, Roqueplan exhibited a work with the title, Peasants of the Valley of Ossau.  Could these be one and the same painting?

Girl with Flowers by Roqueplan (1843)
Girl with Flowers by Roqueplan (1843)

Another painting of his which I like was painted around the same time, 1843.  It is an oval work, entitled Girl with Flowers and is now housed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.  It is an everyday genre piece in which we see a young girl walking home with a bunch of wild flowers that she has collected, and which are held carefully in the folds of her raised skirt.  She is young and pretty.

Girl with Flowers (detail)
Girl with Flowers (detail)

On her head is a wide-brimmed straw-coloured hat adorned with a pink flower and ribbons that seem to flutter down and fly off behind her giving us an impression of motion.  She holds on to the brim of her hat, pulling it downwards affording her more shade from the sun and maybe ensuring it does not fly from her head due to the breeze.  The hat frames her face.  She looks at us enticingly and we cannot help but fall under the spell of her young beauty.  What of course is more haunting is the sight of her left breast which has been uncovered due to lowering the neckline of her white linen blouse.

Rousseau and Mlle. Galley gathering Cherries by Rocqueplan (1851)
Rousseau and Mlle. Galley gathering Cherries by Roqueplan (1851)

My final offering is a work he completed in 1851 entitled Rousseau and Mlle. Galley gathering Cherries and is based on one of the autobiographical tales from The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau , written by the French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  This great work came in twelve volumes and recounted the first thirty-five years of his life.  In Volume IV  he recounts a tale from 1731, when he was nineteen years old, when he met and befriended a lady and her companion who were travelling through the countryside.  He had assisted them with getting their horses across a stream and then they had stopped at a hostelry and were partaking of lunch when they decided to go outside and look for some cherries and it was then that Rousseau tells of his longing for the lady:

“…After dinner, we were economical; instead of drinking the coffee we had reserved at breakfast, we kept it for an afternoon collation, with cream, and some cakes they had brought with them. To keep our appetites in play, we went into the orchard, meaning to finish our dessert with cherries. I got into a tree, throwing them down bunches, from which they returned the stones through the branches. One time, Mademoiselle Galley, holding out her apron, and drawing back her head, stood so fair, and I took such good aim, that I dropped a bunch into her bosom. On her laughing, I said to myself, “Why are not my lips cherries? how gladly would I throw them there likewise!…”

 In the painting we see Rousseau, having climbed a little way up the cherry tree, is dangling the fruit above Madamoiselle Galley.  She stands holding her apron open to catch the fruit but Rousseau has other ideas as to where the cherries should land!  The smile on her slightly flushed face is an indication that she too would like the cherries to be his lips.

Camille-Joseph-Étienne Roqueplan died in Paris in September 1855, aged 55.

 In this and my previous blogs about Gabriel Metsu I have featured paintings which are housed at the Wallace Collection in London.   If you are ever in London and want to visit an art gallery but are spoiled for choice, you must go to this one.  It is right in the centre of town, a five minute walk from the major department stores on Oxford Street.  I can assure you that you will not be disappointed with the collection.

A Girl in a Kitchen (La chercheuse de puce) by Nicolas Lancret

A Girl in a Kitchen by Nicolas Lancret (c.1720-30)

Today I am featuring the French painter, draughtsman and art collector, Nicolas Lancret, who was born in Paris in 1690.  To begin with, Lancret trained as an engraver but soon afterwards became an apprentice to the history and religious painter Pierre Dulin.  Dulin was later to become a professor of art at  Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in Paris.  Throughout his early artistic training Lancret was influenced by and greatly admired the works of the Jean-Antoine Watteau the late Baroque painter and one of the leading artists in the new Rococo style of artwork.  In 1708, at the age of eighteen, Lancret enrolled at the Académie royale de peinture and in 1711 he competed unsuccessfully for the Prix de Rome prize.  His stay at the Académie ended when he was expelled for quarrelling.    It was Lancret’s love of Watteau’s work that made him part from his tutor Dulin and serve under Claude Gillot, the French genre and decorative painter, who had Watteau as his assistant in 1703.  Once Lancret began to work in the studio of Gillot his artwork changed from the history painting he had learnt whilst with Dulin to the Rococo style with all its scenes of graceful figures at leisure in elegant garden settings similar to the works of Watteau whom Lancret met around 1712.

In 1719 he was the first painter to be accepted into the Académie Royale as a painter of fête galantes, a category that had been created by the Academy in 1717.  Fête galante, which means “courtship party”, is a French term used to describe a type of painting which first came very popular in the early eighteenth century France.  Watteau had submitted his reception piece, ‘The Embarkation for the Island of Cythera (See My Daily Art Display, February 22nd 2011)  to the Académie Royale in 1717 and the critics of the time described it as characterising une fête galante.  These fêtes galantes paintings were usually small in size and recorded the lives of stylishly dressed men and women engaged in amorous but well-mannered play in a garden or parkland surroundings.

Lancret’s art work became very popular and he received numerous commissions from wealthy patrons especially after the death of Watteau in 1721.  Frederick the Great owned more than twenty-six of his paintings but his main patron was the ruler of France, Louis XV,  who, from the 1725,  continued to buy Lancret’s work until the artist died almost twenty years later.  He was one of the most prolific and imaginative genre painters of the first half of the eighteenth century in France and he had the ability to insert lively genre images into an allegorical framework.  His portraiture work was different to many of the time as he liked to treat his portraits as genre scenes.  Lancret exhibited works regularly at the Paris Salon.

Lancret remained single for much of his life and did not marry until 1741 when he was fifty-one years of age.  He married the 18 year old grandchild of Edmé Boursault, the French dramatist and writer.  Although one may be dismayed by the age difference of the couple it is believed that Lancret decided to marry the young girl after finding her and her dying mother living in poverty in an attic room and on hearing that the daughter was soon to be compelled to enter a convent. The marriage was a short-lived as Lancret died of pneumonia in Paris in 1743, aged fifty three.

My Daily Art Display featured painting today is not a fête galante work but a genre piece which I saw recently at the Wallace Collection in London.  The painting is entitled A Girl in a Kitchen (La chercheuse de puce) which Lancret completed in the 1720’s.  It is very reminiscent of the Dutch genre paintings of the previous century.  We see before us a young woman seated in a kitchen.  The first question which comes to mind as we look at her is what is she doing?  The subtitle of the painting La chercheuse de puce, reveals all, as translated it means “the seeker out of fleas”.  Unbelievable as it may seem the girl is inspecting herself for fleas !!!   The reason for this activity was that during the eighteenth century, amongst the poorer classes, infestation in the household with fleas was quite common.  However the depiction of the girl touching her exposed breasts during her inspection was probably Lancret’s way of titillating the observer.  The girl sits before us with her corset unlaced, inspecting her body.  Kitchen scenes in poor and peasant households were popular with the Dutch art collectors but the addition of the bare-breasted girl with its erotic connotations adds a typical French flavour to the depiction.

In some ways this painting is a kind of plagiarism as it is thought that although Lancret painted the girl and the still-life on the table next to her, the interior was painted by a Dutch artist much earlier.    The erotic element of the painting is not the only “Frenchness” about the work of art.  She sits there in her French silk skirt, semi-laced corset and delicate pointed slippers and she has been added by Lancret to this Dutch seventeenth-century interior.  It is not known which Dutch artist had painted the interior.  There were many art collectors  in France who paid good money for these Dutch genre scenes.  However Lancret, the master of fêtes galantes paintings, wanted to add some colourful and picturesque feminine interest into those more dark and somber Dutch paintings and, as was the case in today’s work, he is known to have embellished works by the Dutch landscape and peasant scene painter, Herman Saftleven and the Dutch Golden Age and sill-life painter, Willem Kalf.

I will leave you to ponder over whether the original Dutch interior needed the little bit of colour and bare flesh that Nicolas Lancret has given us.