Details & Cataloguing

19th Century European Paintings


Jean-François Millet
1814 - 1875
signed J F Millet lower right
oil on panel
15 by 24.5cm., 6 by 9¾in.
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We would like to thank Alexandra Murphy for confirming the authenticity of this work and writing the catalogue note.


Durand-Ruel & Cie, Paris, by 1873
William Lawson Peacock, London (probably before 1900)


Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Recueil d'Estampes gravees a l'eau-forte, Paris, 1873, pl. 37 (an etching of the present work) 

Catalogue Note

Jean-Francois Millet painted this intimate scene of a young woman day-dreaming beside a forest stream or pool in 1846-47, shortly after the young artist had moved back to Paris after a prolonged stay in his native Cherbourg.  The mid-1840s were critically important for Millet as he shaped the subject matter, style and techniques with which he would craft the powerful Realist imagery that had such a profound impact on the Paris art world following the Revolution of 1848.  Surprisingly, perhaps -- for an artist more frequently associated with heavily garbed gleaners in a field or exhausted farmers turning the soil -- it was delicately painted small compositions of beautiful nude women or loosely mythical characters in a pastoral setting reminiscent of eighteenth-century Rococo decorations that provided the impetus for Millet to move beyond his polished, formal academic training toward more realistic draughtsmanship, natural figure movement and convincing landscape surrounds.

Au repos can be fairly precisely dated because a black crayon life study by Millet depicting a semi-nude young woman leaning her cheek on one hand with her other arm draped across her torso (but in reverse of the present painting) occupies the centre of a sheet of several figure studies that are directly preparatory for Millet's Salon painting of 1847 Oedipus Detached from the Tree (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada).  By 1846-47, Millet was a more sophisticated draughtsman than painter, and in works such as Au repos he found the freedom to explore a more supple painting technique as well as a more personalised palette of colours -- the heavier paint touches and the unusual salmon-pink touches of the present work would become identifying characteristics of several sowing and harvesting scenes just two or three years later.

Au repos is a new discovery among Millet's works, although the record of labels on the painting's verso provides some clues to the painting's history. It is unusual for a Millet painting of a nude to turn up in English hands during the nineteenth-century; although English and Scottish collectors were actively acquiring the artist's work by the 1880s, their preference was directed to the more familiar peasant subjects.  Nudes by Millet would have been virtually unknown in London when W. Lawson Peacock, a rare book and print dealer, later a partner in The French Gallery, displayed the painting around 1890-1900.

19th Century European Paintings