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.
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