"Saint Jerome Tempted" and
"Oedipus Taken Down from the Tree":
The Discovery of
a Lost Painting
by Bruce Laughton
| 4 | 5
19 Daumier exhibited a painting of
at the Salon
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
24 "(the paint) is pitched on with an incredible audacity and fury...this painting surpasses in ferocity the wildest oil sketches
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
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
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
Oedipus, see Kenneth Lindsay, "Millet's Lost Winnower Rediscovered,"
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
for 1848, confirms
that frame dimensions rather than stretcher dimensions were those recorded.
Professor Lindsay suggests that the red cap worn by the original
taken with the other prominent colours of blue and white, would carry
a political reference to the
of Republican France. In
the newly cleaned
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,
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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