- Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Portrait en buste de jeune fille
- Signed indistinctly Renoir (lower left)
- Oil on canvas
- 21 7/8 by 18 1/4 in.
- 55.5 by 46.5 cm
(possibly) Ambroise Vollard, Paris (1918)
James Bramford, Esq., England (by 1949)
The Mayor Gallery, London (acquired from the above)
William Appleton Coolidge, Topsfield and Cambridge, Massachusetts (acquired from the above in 1949)
Acquired as a bequest from the above on January 27, 1993
Ambroise Vollard, Tableaux, pastels et dessins de Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paris, 1918, vol. I, no. 116, illustrated p. 29 (as dating from 1895 and titled Étude de femme)
Peter C. Sutton, The William Appleton Coolidge Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1955, no. 19, illustrated p. 90
Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, vol. 2, Paris, 2009, no. 1246, illustrated p. 347 (titled Étude de femme (Portrait en buste de jeune fille)
Renoir's lavish portraits of young women are some of the most recognizable images of Impressionist painting. Painted with extraordinary vigor and emphasis on the blushing complexion of the young model, the present work exemplifies Renoir's talent for capturing the subtle charms of feminine beauty.
Dating from the early 1890s, the present work is believed to depict Gabrielle Renard, the governess who cared for Renoir's young children and would become the artist's most recognizable model at the turn of the century. At first, the artist featured her in several group portraits with his sons Jean and Coco, but as her relationship with the family became closer, she began posing for Renoir in the nude. A distant relative of the artist's wife Aline, Gabrielle joined the Renoir household in 1894, shortly before the birth of Jean in September of that year, and left in 1914, around the time she was to marry the American painter Conrad Slade. Her departure was partly influenced by the deteriorating relationship between herself and Madame Renoir, who objected to the artist's increasing attention towards his young model.
Renoir's son Jean, who often sat for his father together with Gabrielle, later in his life recalled that the painter shied away from demonstrating his emotions in front of the family, but that his affection for Gabrielle was undoubtedly reflected in his paintings. "Certainly, comparing Renoir's portrayal of Gabrielle with photographs of her from around the same time, it is clear that he has softened her rather coarse features" (Renoir's Portraits: Impressions of an Age (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1997, p. 226).
This picture was gifted to the Museum of Fine Arts by the prominent Bostonian lawyer William Coolidge, whose professional and philanthropic affliations included Overseer of Harvard University, Life Member of the Corporation of MIT, and Vice President of the Museum of Fine Arts.