National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 24, 1974

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Millet's "Saint Jerome Tempted" and
"Oedipus Taken Down from the Tree": 
The Discovery of a Lost Painting

by Bruce Laughton

Pages  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6 


19 Daumier exhibited a painting of Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa at the Salon of 1850-1851.

20 Daumier also did a painting of Oedipus Cut Down front the Tree, dated by K. E. Maison, op. cit., Paintings, 1-7, to 1846-1847, but the composition bears no relationship to Millet's picture.

21 J. Soullié, op. cit., p. 61.

22 The Milk-Maid and The Riding Lesson, shown at the Salon of 1844. These were treated in a style reminiscent of Boucher.

23 "The Oedipus presents an enigma to the public...but there is in this powerful phantasmagoria an artist with an audacious touch and an original colourist."

24 "(the paint) is pitched on with an incredible audacity and fury...this painting surpasses in ferocity the wildest oil sketches of Tintoretto and of Ribera "

25 Paul Mantz was to become the editor of Sensier's biography, published in 1881. Sensier died in 1877, having written up Millet's life to the year 1864. Mantz edited the rest from Sensier's collection of letters and other documents.

26 "Paintings executed in this rough and uneven manner will become indecipherable enigmas in thirty years time."

27 Actually it had been owned by Karl Bodmer, Millet's American friend at Barbizon, from 1847 to 1869, when Bodmer sold it to Faure at a large profit, cf. Soullié, op. cit., p.60.

28 This opinion has been given by Mr Stewart Meese. He thinks that the idea of a chemical change over a period of time, due merely to thick painting, is, in this case, highly unlikely. The only visible change today is some shrinkage craquelure in the dark areas, which could have taken place during the actual process of painting.

29 As regards previous restoration, we know that something was done before 1914, the date of its acquisition by the National Gallery, when the canvas was restretched and the edges extended to fit the new stretcher. In 1922, it was recommended and approved for restoration in a list of paintings submitted to the then Director of the National Gallery by Mr Brown, and it was cleaned and revarnished in 1934 (NGC Restoration Report, 1934).

30 For fresh information regarding this key work which immediately followed Oedipus, see Kenneth Lindsay, "Millet's Lost Winnower Rediscovered," Burlington Magazine, vol. CXV1 (May 1974), pp. 45-55. The fact that this picture has been discovered in its original frame, which fits the measurements given in the Enregistrement for 1848, confirms that frame dimensions rather than stretcher dimensions were those recorded. Professor Lindsay suggests that the red cap worn by the original Winnower, taken with the other prominent colours of blue and white, would carry a political reference to the tricouleur of Republican France. In the newly cleaned Oedipus we find a similar combination of these three colours as the keynotes of the design, running top to bottom: red in the shepherd in the tree, white in the cloth supporting Oedipus, and blue in the skirt of the shepherdess. Similar combinations are found in other paintings of this period, for example Samson and Delilah (last exhibited at Wildenstein's [London], 1969, J. F. Millet, cat. no.15) also of 1848. I am not absolutely convinced that such a colour combination refers directly to Millet's political commitment, and prefer the simple explanation that he just liked it.

31 See É. Moreau-Nélaton, Millet raconté par lui-même, Vol. II (Paris, 1921), pp. 140-142, and T. H. Bartlett, "Barbizon and Jean-François Millet," Scribner's Magazine, vol. VII (1890), p. 744-746, for accounts of Millet's quarrel with Blanc about this work. Moreau-Nélaton reproduces both a painting and a pastel of Le bain de la gardeuse d'oies, figs 184 and 185.

32 Delteil Nr. 19, second state (repr.). Prints are in Yale University Art Gallery and in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.

33 Letter to Sensier of 23 November 1863. "I will also have to remove certain marks, and we will perhaps need the help of an engraver who is a .fox at his profession." Moreau-Nélaton, op. cit., p. 148.

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