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Hugues Merle
A Young Mother (Un Jeune Mère)

1865

$115,000

About

Signed and dated, lower left: Hugues Merle / 1865 Provenance: (Possibly) T. J. Blakeslee; his sale, American Art Association, Mendelssohn Hall, New York, 10–11 April 1902, lot 73 (bought by B. G. Gunther) (Possibly) J. F. Warren, Hoosac Falls, New York Percival and Mary Brooks, Pasadena, ca. 1945; by whom given to: James Leehan Green, Elsah, Illinois, until 2005; by whom given to: John C. Fitzpatrick, Iowa City, Iowa, and Eastport, Maine, 2006–2020. Exhibited: (Probably) Salon, Paris, 1865, no. 1497. The Huntington Library and Art Museum, San Marino, California (on loan). The University of Iowa Museum of Art (on loan ca. 2011). The Tides Institute and Museum of Art in Eastport, Maine (on loan until 2019). Literature: Louis Auvray, Salon de 1865, Paris, 1865, p. 63. L’Autographe, no. 4, 20 May 1865. L’Union médicale, 1865, vol. 27, p. 5. Michael Vottero, “Hugues Merle (1822–1881): Peinture de Genre et Marché de l’Art Sous le Second Empire,” Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art Français, 2011 (2012), p. 184, cat. no. 97; and p. 194, cat. no. 135 (incorrectly identified as the painting sold at Sotheby’s New York on 28 October 2003, lot 40). This newly rediscovered painting of a young mother and child is the primary autograph version of Hugues Merle’s Jeune Mère. Signed and dated 1865, the canvas was exhibited at the 1865 Salon in Paris, at which time it was lauded by the critic Louis Auvray for having attracted the attention and praise of the public and artists alike. Merle’s oeuvre consists largely of charming allegories and humble genre scenes, and his works are often compared to those of his contemporary William-Adolphe Bouguereau. He achieved considerable success with his scenes of maternal affection and childhood innocence, which were prized for their sweetness and naturalism, particularly by affluent American collectors. In 1879, Art Treasures of America recorded more than 50 paintings by Merle in prestigious American private collections, including those of W. H. Vanderbilt and J. P. Morgan. Merle studied in Paris with the history painter Léon Cogniet. He exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon from 1847 on and won second-class medals in 1861 and 1863. Merle achieved considerable success in his lifetime and was made a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in 1866. He enjoyed the patronage of the Duc de Morny, as well as the distinguished art dealers Adolphe Goupil and Paul Durand-Ruel (a close personal friend of the artist). Merle's paintings were critical to the success of Durand-Ruel’s gallery, and the dealer often paid him 10,000 francs in advance for a painting, compared to the 100-200 francs he paid for works by Camille Pissarro and Claude Monet. The Jeune Mère centers on the theme of motherhood. A young mother is shown seated on a turned wooden chair in an interior, nursing her child. She looks down with a loving expression and a slight smile at the child, whose gender is cleverly hidden by the position of the legs. Merle has rendered the subtle flesh tones of the figures in painstaking detail and has carefully articulated the bright yellow and blue drapery of the mother’s costume. His arrangement of the scene, with the mother placed close to the picture plane and the figure nearly filling the frame, evokes the traditional motif of the Madonna and Child, here without any religious connotations. The close proximity of both emphasizes the central focus of the painting: the intimacy of the relationship between mother and child. The success of the Jeune Mère at the Salon no doubt explains the existence of several later replicas by the artist. Another version on the same scale, dated 1869, has been sold several times at Sotheby’s New York over the past two decades. Merle also painted more modest, small-scale replicas of the painting, including one in The Clark Art Institute (Fig. 1) and another that recently appeared at Sotheby’s New York. Dr. Michael Vottero included the present painting in his catalogue raisonné of Merle’s oeuvre. However, he mistakenly identified our version as the painting dated 1869 sold by Sotheby’s. Vottero has recently confirmed Merle’s authorship of the painting and the reading of our date as 1865 on the basis of photographs (written communication).

Details

  • Creator
    Hugues Merle (1823 - 1881)
  • Creation Year
    1865
  • Dimensions
    Height: 39.5 in. (100.33 cm)Width: 32 in. (81.28 cm)
  • Medium
  • Movement & Style
  • Period
  • Condition
  • Gallery Location
    New York, NY
  • Reference Number
    1stDibs: LU1026198042

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