Puvis created this work as a "reduction" of one of his monumental canvases decorating the Musée de Picardie in Amiens. The scene highlights the early history of this part of northern France. At center, young athletes train with pikes, the preferred weapon of the region’s ancient inhabitants. Such spears are called piques in French—a possible origin of the name Picardy. Completed in 1882 and installed in 1888, the large version of this composition completed Puvis’s mural cycle for the museum, a decades-long project that included Cider and The River, studies for which are in the Metropolitan’s collection.
Inscription: Signed (lower left): P. Puvis de Chavannes
[Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1895; stock no. 3432; bought from the artist in November 1895; shipped in December 1895 to Durand-Ruel, New York]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1895–97; stock no. 1497; sold in February 1897 to Payne]; Colonel Oliver H. Payne, New York (1897–d. 1917); his nephew, Harry Payne Bingham, New York (1917–d. 1955); his widow, Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham, New York (1955–58)
Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition centennale de l'art français (1789–1889)," May–November 1889, no cat. number (as "Pro patrià ludus," probably this picture) [see d'Argencourt 1977].
Paris. Durand-Ruel. "Exposition de tableaux, esquisses & dessins de Puvis de Chavannes," June–July 1899, no. 29 (as "Ludus pro Patria," lent by MM. Durand-Ruel).
London. Hayward Gallery. "French Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers," June 7–July 23, 1972, no. 218.
Liverpool. Walker Art Gallery. "French Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers," August 9–September 17, 1972, no. 218.
Paris. Grand Palais. "Puvis de Chavannes, 1824–1898," November 26, 1976–February 14, 1977, no. 150.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Puvis de Chavannes, 1824–1898," March 18–May 1, 1977, no. 150.
Athens. National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit," September 24–December 31, 1979, no. 101.
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "La Jeunesse des musées: Les musées de France aux XIXe siècle," February 7–May 8, 1994, no. 51.
Venice. Palazzo Grassi. "From Puvis de Chavannes to Matisse and Picasso: Toward Modern Art," February 10–June 16, 2002, no. 11.
Athens. Pinacothèque nationale et musée A. Soutzos. "Paris—Athènes: 1863–1940," December 20, 2006–March 31, 2007, no. 89.
Camille Pissarro. Letter to Lucien Pissarro. November 21, 1895 [published in Janine Bailly-Herzberg, ed., "Correspondance de Camille Pissarro. Tome 4/ 1895–1898," Paris, 1989, p. 119], mentions that he has seen a Puvis de Chavannes "reproduction des 'Picards' très beau celui-là arrangement... mais c'est égal il y a là-dedans une anomalie, cela n'est pas fait pour être vu comme un tableau, non, mille fois non, sur un mur de pierre de taille c'est admirable... mais ce n'est pas de la peinture" [possibly this picture; see Ref. Price 2010].
Gabriel Mourey. "Some Sketches by Puvis de Chavannes." International Studio 9 (November 1899), p. 17, mentions the reduction of "Ludus pro Patria" exhibited at Durand-Ruel, Paris.
"Recent Loans." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (February 1921), p. 41, mentions that this picture has been lent to the MMA by Harry Payne Bingham.
Camille Mauclair. Puvis de Chavannes. Paris, 1928, p. 162, lists it as in the MMA's collection and calls it a sketch.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, p. 228, ill., call it a reduced version of the picture above the entrance to the Salon Carré of the Musée de Picardie, Amiens, stating that "it is difficult to decide if it is a preliminary study or a replica".
Mary Anne Stevens and Alan Bowness inFrench Symbolist Painters: Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Redon and their Followers. Ed. Alan Bowness. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. London, 1972, pp. 108–9, no. 218, ill., date it about 1880–90 and call it a reduced replica of the Amiens mural; mention the cartoon of the composition (1880; Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels) and a related painting (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore).
Richard J. Wattenmaker. Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto, 1975, p. 23 n. 4, p. 67.
The Toledo Museum of Art: European Paintings. Toledo, 1976, p. 133.
Louise d'Argencourt inPuvis de Chavannes, 1824–1898. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Paris. Ottawa, 1977, pp. 167–68, no. 150, ill. p. 170 [French ed., Paris 1976, pp. 169–70, no. 150, ill. p. 172], calls it a replica executed after 1882, perhaps as late as 1888–89.
James David Draper and Joan R. Mertens. Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit. Exh. cat., National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. Athens, 1979, pp. 258–59, no. 101, ill., date it 1888–89.
William R. Johnston. The Nineteenth Century Paintings in the Walters Art Gallery. Baltimore, 1982, p. 147.
Aimée Brown Price. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, 1994, p. 194 n. 1, under no. 107.
Pierre Vaisse inLa Jeunesse des musées: Les musées de France au XIXe siècle. Ed. Chantal Georgel. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1994, pp. 161, 370, no. 51, ill. pp. 152, 162–63 (color, overall and detail), dates it 1889.
Brian Petrie. Puvis de Chavannes. Ed. Simon Lee. Aldershot, England, 1997, pp. 11, 37, colorpl. X, dates it 1888–89.
Serge Lemoine, ed. From Puvis de Chavannes to Matisse and Picasso: Toward Modern Art. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi, Venice. [Milan], 2002, pp. 304–5, no. 11, ill. (color), dates it 1882.
Louise d'Argencourt inPuvis de Chavannes: Une voie singulière au siècle de l'Impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Musée de Picardie. Amiens, 2005, p. 186, under no. 177, remarks that on March 4, 1888, a musical work called "Ludus pro Patria" by Augusta Holmès was performed at the Salle des Concerts du Conservatoire de musique in Paris; suggests that a replica of the Amiens mural, perhaps ours, may have been painted for the occasion of this concert.
Aimée Brown Price. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Vol. 1, The Artist and His Art. New Haven, 2010, pp. 146, 218 n. 32, identifies the "reproduction des 'Picards'" described by Pissarro at Durand-Ruel's gallery in November 1895 [see Ref. Pissarro 1895] as a variant of "Ludus pro Patria" [possibly this picture; see provenance].
Aimée Brown Price. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Vol. 2, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work. New Haven, 2010, pp. 261–62, no. 287, ill., dates it about 1883–91, noting that it is uncertain whether it was executed shortly after the Amiens mural (Price no. 274) or years later; remarks that although its broad brushstrokes suggest those of a "preliminary, crudely blocked out sketch... the sense of completeness indicates a reduced version made after the mural".
A full-size cartoon of the composition, exhibited in the Salon of 1880, led to the commission for the mural (Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels; Price nos. 270, 274). Two reduced fragments made after the mural are owned by the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and the Toledo Museum of Art (Price nos. 285, 288).