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Study of the Head of an Old Woman Wearing a Veil, for Enlarge image

Study of the Head of an Old Woman Wearing a Veil, for "The Neapolitan Gesture", 1756

Jean-Baptiste Greuze
French, 1725 - 1805
red chalk on laid paper
25 x 19 cm
Purchased 2003
National Gallery of Canada (no. 41259)

This red chalk study representing the veiled head of an old woman is a preparatory drawing for "The Neapolitan Gesture", made during Jean-Baptiste Greuze's stay in Rome from 1755 to 1757. Commissioned by Louis Gougenot, Abbot of Chezal-Benoît, the painting was exhibited at the 1757 Salon. The critics were charmed by the picturesque interpretation of the young woman's "Neapolitan gesture": she waves her fingers under her chin to signify the dismissal of her suitor, a Portuguese gentleman disguised as a peddler, unmasked by the old servant who recognizes the cross of nobility that he wears. The drawing captures the servant's expression as she discovers the deception.

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