Of the five versions of Van Gogh’s portrait of Augustine Roulin, wife of his friend the postmaster of Arles, the present canvas is the one the sitter chose for herself. Van Gogh remarked that "she had a good eye and took the best." He began the portraits just before his breakdown in Arles, in December 1888, and completed them in early 1889, calling them "La Berceuse," meaning "lullaby, or woman who rocks the cradle," indicated by the rope held in the sitter’s hand, which is attached to the unseen cradle.
Inscription: Signed and dated (on arm of chair): vincent / arles 89; inscribed (lower right): La / Berceuse
the sitter and her husband, Joseph Roulin, Arles, later Marseilles (1889–1900; gift from the artist; sold, presumably through Henri Laget, to Vollard); [Ambroise Vollard, Paris, in 1900]; Amédée Schuffenecker, Saint-Maur/Clamart (by 1905; until 1910); [Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, in 1910]; [Léon Marseille, Paris]; [Galerie Tanner, Zurich, until 1917; sold on December 29 for 35,000 Swiss francs to Staechelin]; Rudolf Staechelin, Basel (1917–32; transferred in 1932 to Staechelin Foundation); Rudolf Staechelin Foundation, Basel (1932–67; consigned in 1967 to Wildenstein, Paris and New York; sold through Wildenstein on October 4 to Annenberg); Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, Rancho Mirage, Calif. (1967–96; jointly with MMA, 1996–his d. 2002)
Paris. Société des artistes indépendants. "Exposition rétrospective Vincent van Gogh," March 24–April 30, 1905, no. 39 (as "La Berceuse," lent by Amédée Schuffenecker).
Paris. Galerie E. Druet. "Quelques oeuvres de Vincent van Gogh," January 6–18, 1908, no. 27 (lent by Amédé Schuffnecher [sic], possibly this work).
London. Grafton Galleries. "Manet and the Post-Impressionists," November 8, 1910–January 15, 1911, no. 76 (lent by Bernheim Jeune & Cie).
Kunsthalle Basel. "Vincent van Gogh," March 27–April 21, 1924, no. 38 (lent by a private collection, Basel).
Kunsthalle Bern. "Französische Meister des 19. Jahrhunderts und van Gogh," February 18–April 2, 1934, no. 61 (as "Die Frau an der Wiege") [see Rishel 1991].
Paris. Palais de Tokyo. "La Vie et l'œuvre de van Gogh," June–October 1937, no. 36 (lent by M. R. Staechelin, Basel).
Basel. Galerie M. Schulthess. "25 Werke von Vincent van Gogh," June 23–August 19, 1945, no. 13 (as "La Berceuse [Mme Roulin]").
Kunstmuseum Basel. "Sammlung Rudolf Staechelin: Gedächtnis-Ausstellung zum 10. Todesjahr des Sammlers," May 13–June 17, 1956, no. 38.
Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne. "Fondation Rodolphe Staechelin, de Corot à Picasso," April 10–June 28, 1964, no. 32.
London. Tate Gallery. "The Annenberg Collection," September 2–October 8, 1969, no. 19.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," May 21–September 17, 1989, unnumbered cat.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," May 6–August 5, 1990, unnumbered cat.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," August 16–November 11, 1990, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," June 4–October 13, 1991, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde," September 13, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 124.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [January 30, 1889] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b622 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 575; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 744], states that "today I started work on a third Berceuse," referring to the present work (but see Rathbone 2013).
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [February 3, 1889] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. nos. b623 a-b V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 576; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 745], remarks that he let the sitter and her husband choose between the three versions of "La Berceuse" provided that he could do a repetition of the one they took (the present picture).
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [on or about February 25, 1889] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b625 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 578; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 748], writes that Mme Roulin "had a good eye and took the best" version (this work) for herself.
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [March 22, 1889] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b627 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 580; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 751], states that the canvases executed "in the intervals" between his attacks of illness (which included this work), "are calm and not inferior to others".
Joseph Roulin. Letter to Vincent van Gogh. May 22, 1889 [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b1071 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 775], states that his daughter, Marcelle, sleeps "under the benevolent gaze of both the wife and the Father," referring to this picture and an unidentified canvas, respectively.
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [on or about June 18, 1889] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b643 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 595; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 782], mentions the woman who posed for the Berceuse (Augustine Roulin).
Joseph Roulin. Letter to Vincent van Gogh. August 19, 1889 [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b1072 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 796], assures Van Gogh "Do not fear that I will have anything done to your paintings for I respect the artist's talent too much".
G.-Albert Aurier. "Les isolés: Vincent van Gogh." Mercure de France 1 (January 1890), p. 28 [reprinted in English transl. in Ronald Pickvance, "Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy and Auvers," New York, 1986, p. 314], calls it "cette gigantesque et géniale image d'Épinal, qu'il a répétée, avec de curieuses variantes, plusieurs fois" (that gigantic and wonderful Épinal print, that he repeated, with curious variants, several times).
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [on or about May 2, 1890] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. nos. b681 a-b V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 632; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 866], mentions the model who posed for the Berceuse (Augustine Roulin).
E. Bernard. "Vincent van Gogh." Les Hommes d'Aujourd'hui 8, no. 390 (1891), unpaginated, in connection with this subject mentions a legend of a spirit called "la berceuse" who appears to sailors on the sea to calm and comfort them; states that the artist intended the image for an inn in Marseilles or Saintes-Maries catering to sailors.
C. J. Holmes. Notes on the Post-Impressionist Painters: Grafton Galleries, 1910–11. London, 1910, pp. 28–29, compares Van Gogh's "original" technique in this painting to woolwork; remarks on the "quaint colour".
"The Latest Revolt in Art: The New French School at the Grafton Gallery." Sphere (November 5, 1910), ill. p. 130, as "The Nurse".
Vincent van Gogh. Lettres de Vincent van Gogh à Émile Bernard. Paris, 1911, ill. hors texte (color).
Shirakaba 3 (November 1912), unpaginated Appendix, ill. (color).
Théodore Duret. Van Gogh Vincent. Paris, 1916, p. 53.
Gustave Coquiot. Vincent van Gogh. Paris, 1923, p. 289, ill. opp. p. 288.
Florent Fels. Vincent van Gogh. Paris, 1928, pp. 206–7, ill., incorrectly states that Van Gogh did six versions of this subject.
J.-B. de La Faille. L'Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh: Catalogue Raisonné. Paris, 1928, vol. 1, pp. 144–45, no. 505; vol. 2, fig. 505.
R. H. Wile[n]ski. French Painting. Boston, 1931, p. 297 n. 1.
W. Scherjon and Jos. De Gruyter. Vincent van Gogh's Great Period: Arles, St. Rémy and Auvers sur Oise (complete catalogue). Amsterdam, 1937, Arles no. 149, ill. p. 171.
Van Gogh: Exposition internationale de 1937, Group I, Classe III. Exh. cat., Palais de Tokyo. Paris, 1937, p. 14, no. 36, ill.
Douglas Lord, ed. Vincent van Gogh: Letters to Émile Bernard. London, 1938, p. 102 n. 7.
J.-B. de La Faille. Vincent van Gogh. London, , between pp. 432 and 433, pp. 567, 573, 587, colorpl. 14, as in the collection of R. Staechelin, Basel.
R. H. Wilenski. Modern French Painters. New York, , p. 214.
Edward Alden Jewell. Vincent van Gogh. New York, 1946, p. 79, ill. p. 72 (color).
Georg Schmidt. Van Gogh. Bern, 1947, p. 20, colorpl. 26, compares it to the artist's portrait of "Père Tanguy" (two versions, Musée Rodin, Paris, and private collection), calling the two works siblings.
Maurice Raynal and Jean Leymarie. History of Modern Painting from Baudelaire to Bonnard: The Birth of a New Vision. Geneva, 1949, pp. 68–69, ill. (color), state that Van Gogh was under Gauguin's influence when he began this series and that it shares the same decorative rhythm and "symbolic harmony" as Gauguin's "The Vision after the Sermon" (1888, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh).
Werner Weisbach. Vincent van Gogh: Kunst und Schicksal. Vol. 2, Basel, , p. 133, fig. 58, suggests that our composition was the first to be painted, noting that only in our painting does the model's right hand lie over her left, rather than the reverse.
Paul Gachet. Vincent van Gogh aux "Indépendants". Paris, 1953, unpaginated.
J.-N. Priou. "Van Gogh et la famille Roulin." Revue des PTT de France 10 (May–June 1955), p. 27, states that Marcelle Roulin, the daughter of the sitter, recalled that in 1895 Vollard bought the family's collection of paintings by Van Gogh, including the portrait of her mother [this work], for 450 francs.
John Rewald. Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin. 1st ed. New York, 1956, p. 240 n. 54, pp. 314–15 [3rd, rev. ed., 1978, p. 216 n. 57, pp. 292–93], notes that the subject was inspired by Pierre Loti's novel about Icelandic fishermen, which Van Gogh had discussed with Gauguin, and that he chose to create a consoling image for the novel's sailors to be hung (theoretically) in the cabin of their boat.
August Kuhn-Foelix. Vincent van Gogh: Eine Psychographie. Bergen, Germany, 1958, p. 138, fig. 28.
Vincent van Gogh. The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh with Reproductions of All the Drawings in the Correspondence. Greenwich, Conn., 1958, under letter nos. 575–76, 578, 580, 595, 632.
Philippe Huisman. Van Gogh Portraits. English ed. [French ed. (1960)]. Lausanne, , pp. 50, 52, colorpl. 20, states that the chair depicted is Gauguin's chair from the Yellow House; notes that Van Gogh wanted to paint the calm, protective atmosphere of the Roulin home and sees an association for the artist between the sitter and the Virgin Mary; calls the unseen cradle's cord "a life-line for those crying for help".
John Rewald. Letter to A. M. Hammacher. April 29, 1962 [see La Faille 1970, p. 204], writes that he showed La Faille 1939 to the sitter's daughter at Arles, from which she picked out the works that had once belonged to her parents, and which were sold to Vollard around 1895, including this picture.
M. Roy Fisher. The Annenberg Collection. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. London, 1969, unpaginated, no. 19, ill. (color), suggests that this picture is the original version because it is the one Mme Roulin chose for herself.
Marc Edo Tralbaut. Vincent van Gogh. New York, 1969, p. 243 [French ed., "Van Gogh, le mal aimé," 1969], publishes a photograph (p. 230) from the Archives Internationales de van Gogh (property of the author) of Mme Roulin at age seventy.
J.-B. de La Faille. The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam, 1970, pp. 204, 224–25, 631, no. 505, ill., calls this the version chosen by Mme Roulin; dates our painting and the version in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (F504) to January 1889, and states that the other three versions probably followed in this order: (Art Institute of Chicago; F506), (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; F508), and (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; F507).
Mark Roskill. Van Gogh, Gauguin, and the Impressionist Circle. Greenwich, Conn., 1970, p. 242, notes that the human form and decorative elements become more schematic in later versions of Van Gogh's paintings, particularly in those of this theme.
Mark Roskill. Van Gogh, Gauguin, and French Painting of the 1880s: A Catalogue Raisonné of Key Works. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1970, pp. 83–85, believes that our picture was the second or third version in the series and that it may have been done partially from life; calls it "almost certainly the version given to the Roulins".
Paolo Lecaldano. L'opera pittorica completa di Van Gogh e i suoi nessi grafici. Vol. 2, Da Arles a Auvers. repr. [1st ed., 1966]. Milan, 1971–77, p. 218, no. 637, ill. p. 216, as "Ritratto di Augustine Roulin [La Ninnananna]".
Jan Hulsker, ed. Van Gogh's "Diary": The Artist's Life in His Own Words and Art. New York, 1971, pp. 118–19, ill.
Hope Benedict Werness. "Essays on van Gogh's Symbolism." PhD diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1972, pp. 57–58 n. 8, pp. 127–28, notes that the title is on the canvas and was probably inspired by literature; states that Van Gogh included Gauguin among those who were to be comforted by the sitter's rocking, like Icelandic fishermen and the artist himself; discusses Van Eeden and Loti as possible sources for the theme.
Brian Petrie. Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings and Prints. London, 1974, unpaginated, no. 83, ill. (color).
François Daulte. "Une collection impressionniste à Regent's Park." L'Oeil (February 1974), p. 41, figs. 9 (installation photo), 11.
Charles W. Millard. "A Chronology for Van Gogh's Drawings of 1888." Master Drawings 12 (Summer 1974), p. 162.
Aimée Brown Price. "Two Portraits by Vincent van Gogh and Two Portraits by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes." Burlington Magazine 117 (November 1975), p. 718, states that Van Gogh must have had his own "Woman with a Cradle" (1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) in mind when he took up the Berceuse subject and that the earlier picture was, in turn, indebted to Puvis de Chavannes' "Portrait de Mme. C." (1883, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons), a portrait of the Princess Cantacuzène.
Arthur F. Valenstein and Anne Stiles Wylie. "A Discussion of the Paper by Marcel Heiman on 'Psychoanalytic Observations on the Last Painting and Suicide of Vincent van Gogh'." International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 57 (1976), pp. 82–83 n. 2, note that her (presumed wedding) ring is covered in The Met's picture, whereas it shows in the other four versions; comment that Madame Roulin may represent an abandoning as well as a nursing mother, as she had recently had a child and would move away soon; state that for Van Gogh "the painting represented an ideal beyond reach" and that he shifted from seeing the motif as a mother to a wife or woman more generally.
Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov. Vincent van Gogh: His Paris Period, 1886–1888. PhD diss., Universiteit Utrecht. Utrecht, 1976, pp. 194–95, 207 n. 96.
Jan Hulsker. The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. [1st ed., Amsterdam, 1977]. New York, 1980, pp. 380, 386, 484 n. 8, no. 1669, ill. p. 385, calls F504 (Kröller-Müller) the original version.
Evert van Uitert. "Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin in Competition: Vincent's Original Contribution." Simiolus 11, no. 2 (1980), p. 83 n. 12, states that Van Gogh mentioned that the title was borrowed from the Dutch writer Frederik van Eeden.
Griselda F. S. Pollock. "Vincent van Gogh and Dutch Art." PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1980, vol. 1, pt. 3, pp. 489–91, 512 nn. 94, 96, pp. 519–21, 525, 564–66, 592–93, 613 n. 108; vol. 2, pt. 2, fig. 236, calls it an attempt to combine portraiture and "Gauguin-inspired 'abstraction' or composition from memory"; discusses the possibility of the painter's focus in the series as being on creating a pendant portrait to his earlier portrait of the sitter's husband, akin to Dutch seventeenth-century precedents; discusses it as a modern icon in the context of Van Gogh's strategies to create a modern religious art; finds a source for the image in a female figure with a cradle rope depicted in Rembrandt's print of the "Holy Family" (also known with the genre title "Dutch Interior" in the nineteenth century and called "The Bible Reading" by Van Gogh).
Paul Hefting. Vincent van Gogh: A Detailed Catalogue of the Paintings and Drawings by Vincent van Gogh in the Collection of the Kröller-Müller National Museum. 4th rev. ed. Otterlo, 1980, pp. 92, 95–96 [1st Dutch ed., 1957; 1st English ed., 1959], identifies it as probably the second version of the painting.
Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov. Vincent van Gogh and the Birth of Cloisonism. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto, 1981, pp. 148–49, under no. 34B, discusses various precedents for the composition, including Gauguin's "Self-Portrait Dedicated to Vincent van Gogh (Les Misérables)" (1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), then in Van Gogh's possession, and Emile Bernard's "The Artist's Grandmother" (1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), one of Van Gogh's favorite paintings.
Haruo Arikawa. "'La Berceuse': An Interpretation of Vincent van Gogh's Portraits." Annual Bulletin of the National Museum of Western Art no. 15 (1982), pp. 31–75, fig. 2, states that although F504 (Kröller-Müller) is often identified as the original version and F505 (MMA) as the second, the reverse is also possible; believes that F506 (Art Institute of Chicago) and F508 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) followed in either order, and that F507 (Stedelijk Museum) was the final version.
Douglas Cooper. Paul Gauguin: 45 Lettres à Vincent, Théo et Jo van Gogh. The Hague, 1983, p. 269.
Ronald Pickvance. Van Gogh in Arles. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, pp. 248, 265, states that either F504 (Kröller-Müller) or F505 (MMA) was the first version.
Roland Scotti. Die "Internationale Kunst–Ausstellung" 1907 in Mannheim. Mannheim, 1985, pp. 37, 42, suggests that it may have been exhibited at the Internationale Kunst–Ausstellung at the Städtische Kunsthalle in Mannheim, Germany in 1907 as no. 1080, "Wiegenlied"; reproduces the first, provisional edition of the exhibition catalogue; notes that "Wiegenlied" was among seven Van Goghs removed from the exhibition after criticism in the press.
Susan Alyson Stein, ed. Van Gogh: A Retrospective. New York, 1986, p. 192, ill.
Jean-Louis Bonnat. "Les adresses d'un tableau: 'La Berceuse' (V. van Gogh)." Psychanalyse à l'université 12 (July 1987), pp. 374, 377, 395, 402–3.
Hideo Takumi. "Japan's Acceptance of Van Gogh." Vincent van Gogh: International Symposium. Ed. Shuji Takashina et al. Tokyo, 1988, p. 310.
Jack Flam. "In a Different Light." Art News 88 (Summer 1989), pp. 113, 116, ill. (color).
Evert van Uitert et al. Vincent van Gogh: Paintings. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. Milan, 1990, pp. 20–21, 195–96, fig. 10, observe that F504 (Kröller-Müller) is generally assumed to be the first version because the portrayal of the flowers in the wallpaper is the most realistic.
Roland Dorn. Décoration: Vincent van Goghs Werkreihe für das Gelbe Haus in Arles. PhD diss., Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität zu Mainz. Hildesheim, 1990, pp. 155–56, 255 n. 104, p. 303 n. 455, p. 305 n. 462, pp. 414, 431, 462, calls it the second version.
Christian Geelhaar in Hans-Joachim Müller. NAFEA: Die Sammlung Rudolf Staechelin Basel / La collection Rudolf Staechelin Bâle. Basel, 1990, pp. 160, 163, states that on Dec. 27, 1917, Gustav Tanner offered this painting for Fr 35,000 to Staechelin on condition that the sale be concluded within eight days, and that on Dec. 29, 1917, Staechelin agreed via telephone to buy the painting, sight unseen; reproduces Staechelin's original list of acquisitions, which includes this work.
Jan Hulsker. Vincent and Theo van Gogh: A Dual Biography. Ed. James M. Miller. Trans. and rev. ed. [1st ed. Weesp, Holland, 1985]. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990, pp. 341, 343.
Joseph J. Rishel inMasterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Colin B. Bailey, Joseph J. Rishel, and Mark Rosenthal. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1991, pp. ix, 102–5, 196–98, ill. front cover, p. 103 (color, overall and detail) and p. 196, states that it is impossible to know for sure whether this work or F504 was the first version of the composition, but makes several points in favor of the MMA work.
Gary Tinterow. "Miracle au Met." Connaissance des arts no. 472 (June 1991), p. 39.
Jérôme Coignard. "Le Salon de peinture de Mr. et Mrs. Annenberg." Beaux arts no. 92 (July–August 1991), p. 72.
Jan Hulsker. "Van Gogh, Roulin and the Two Arlésiennes: Part I." Burlington Magazine 134 (September 1992), pp. 570–77, fig. 3 (color), places the five versions of the composition in the following chronological order: F508 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), F506 (Art Institute of Chicago), F505 (MMA), F507 (Stedelijk Museum), and F504 (Kröller-Müller).
Judy Sund. True to Temperament: Van Gogh and French Naturalist Literature. Cambridge, 1992, pp. 217–18, 236, relates the flowers on the wallpaper in the series to the sitter's maternal "fruitfulness"; discusses Van Gogh's association of the series with Gauguin.
Jan Hulsker. Vincent van Gogh: A Guide to His Work and Letters. Amsterdam, 1993, pp. 17, 23, 41, 54, 67–68, 70, 75, calls the picture in Boston (F508) the original painting.
John House. "Van Gogh's 'La Berceuse'." Burlington Magazine 135 (July 1993), p. 485, discusses Loti's text in relation to the series and in contrast to the interpretation put forth in Hulsker 1992.
Henk Conradi inDutch Art and Character: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Bosch, Bruegel, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Mondrian, Willink, Queen Wilhelmina. Ed. Joost Baneke et al. Amsterdam, 1993, pp. 100, 102–4.
Fred Leeman inThe Mythology of Vincent van Gogh. Ed. Tsukasa Kodera and Yvette Rosenberg. Tokyo, 1993, p. 61, compares it to Paula Modersohn-Becker's "Almswoman in the Garden" (1906; Ludwig Roselius Sammlung im Böttcherstrasse, Bremen) and suggests that she saw either our painting or the Boston version (F508) at the Salon des Indépendants in 1905.
Nobuo Nakatani inThe Mythology of Vincent van Gogh. Ed. Tsukasa Kodera and Yvette Rosenberg. Tokyo, 1993, p. 88, fig. 52 (color), compares it to Kimura Shohachi's "Woman with a Cat" (1912) and mentions that our painting was published in a special Van Gogh supplement to the periodical "Shirakaba" in November 1912.
Kermit Swiler Champa. 'Masterpiece' Studies: Manet, Zola, Van Gogh, and Monet. University Park, Pa., 1994, pp. 92, 97–99, 104–18, denies interpretations of the picture as a modern Madonna and, instead, sees it as a literal musical "berceuse" (lullaby) reliant on contemporary examples by composers Richard Wagner and Hector Berlioz; states that Van Gogh's tendency to make copies of his own works as a kind of calming lullaby to himself began with this series; notes the artist's reliance on schematic "images d'Epinal" and cheap chromolithographs in creating the "Potato Eaters" and "Berceuse".
Thomas Noll. "Der große Sämann": Zur Sinnbildlichkeit in der Kunst von Vincent van Gogh. Worms, 1994, pp. 124–25, 133, fig. 45.
Matthias Arnold. Vincent van Gogh: Werk und Wirkung. Munich, 1995, pp. 164, 173–77, 186, 222, 224, 661, 747.
Jan Hulsker. The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. rev. ed. Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 7, 386, 491, 496, no. 1669 [mislabeled on pp. 386 and 491 as no. 1670], ill. p. 385, proposes the same chronological order for the five versions of the composition as Ref. Hulsker 1992.
Cornelia Homburg. The Copy Turns Original: Vincent van Gogh and a New Approach to Traditional Art Practice. Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 67–68, 76–77, 94, 119, notes that Van Gogh copied an engraving after Virginie Demont-Breton's "The Husband is at Sea" in October 1889 (private collection; F644) and suggests that its subject reminded him of "La Berceuse".
Hope B. Werness. "The Symbolism of Van Gogh's Flowers." Van Gogh 100. Ed. Joseph D. Masheck. Westport, Conn., 1996, pp. 49–53, follows Pickvance 1984 in calling either the Kröller-Müller's or The Met's picture the first version and states that the artist clearly was aiming for mass appeal; notes that the background's swirling patterns and green cast create a sense of rhythmical, oceanic rocking and pay tribute to Gauguin's ideas on the use of significant backgrounds; notes the appropriateness of the many seeds for which dahlias are known to the larger theme of the series.
Orlindo Gouveia Pereira. "The Role of Copying in Van Gogh's Oeuvre and Illness." Van Gogh 100. Ed. Joseph D. Masheck. Westport, Conn., 1996, p. 165, sees the vivid background and disappearance of the horizon line in the series among the first pathographic signs in the artist's oeuvre.
Judy Sund. "Van Gogh's 'Berceuse' and the Sanctity of the Secular." Van Gogh 100. Ed. Joseph D. Masheck. Westport, Conn., 1996, pp. 206, 209, 214–16, 218, 220–25, notes the series' iconic talisman-like role in Van Gogh's oeuvre and the repetition of the image as an indication of its calming resonance for the artist in a period of illness and upheaval; associates his statement of his having a "tempest of desire to embrace something, a woman of the domestic hen type" with the subject; discusses the artist's attempt at a calming musicality and an appeal to proletarian tastes with the image; sees Renan's "Life of Jesus" (1863) as a conceptual prototype for the subject.
Clifford Walter Edwards. "Van Gogh's Spiritual Quest: Toward a Theology of Vulnerability." Van Gogh 100. Ed. Joseph D. Masheck. Westport, Conn., 1996, p. 259.
Susan Alyson Stein in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1996–1997." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 55 (Fall 1997), p. 55, ill. (color).
Carol Zemel. Van Gogh's Progress. Berkeley, 1997, pp. 17, 90, 118–21, notes that the cradle cord also suggests a rosary and that the sitter's impassivity and the visual "assault of color and pattern" create a "double distancing" effect for the viewer; links the image and others of the Roulins to parent-child anxieties and fears of abandonment.
Janice Anderson. Van Gogh's Flowers and Landscapes. New York, 1997, p. 45, ill. (color).
Ira Berkow. "Jewels in the Desert." Art News 97 (May 1998), ill. p. 147 (color, installation photo).
Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov. Van Gogh in Provence and Auvers. [New York], 1999, p. 126.
Ronald Pickvance. Van Gogh. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2000, pp. 29, 85, 277, 306.
Debora Silverman. Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art. New York, 2000, pp. 8, 313, 316, 319–20, 346–47, 353, 358–59, 426, 473 n. 21, fig. 131 (color), suggests the artist made the series as a type of Protestant "counterimagery" to Provençal Catholics' beliefs in supernaturalism; sees the series as a response to Gauguin's techniques of abstraction and an adaptation of them into Van Gogh's own artistic language; refers to the image as a "Madonna-like icon" and to The Met's picture as the third version; notes probable influences on the series of a Nativity play Van Gogh attended, regional votive imagery of female saints safeguarding the seas found in Arles commonly during the weeks celebrating the Nativity, as well as fifteenth-century Flemish painting and Van Gogh's 1886 viewing of the sixteenth-century Flemish Maris Stella stained-glass window devoted to a maritime Madonna in the Andrieskerk in Antwerp; discusses the profusion of representations of female saints and holy women in Provençal popular culture as an important model in Van Gogh's conceptual shift from a single image of "La Berceuse" to his embrace of multiple copies.
George T. M. Shackelford inVan Gogh Face to Face: The Portraits. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 2000, p. 114, links this painting to van Gogh's "practice of self-repetition and variation" in 1888–89.
Roland Dorn inVan Gogh Face to Face: The Portraits. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 2000, p. 252 n. 6.
Douglas Druick and Peter Kort Zegers et al. Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. New York, 2001, pp. 272, 393 nn. 20, 26–27, fig. 19 (color), date it January 29, 1889 and call it the third version of the composition.
Louis van Tilborgh and Ella Hendriks. "The Tokyo 'Sunflowers': A Genuine Repetition by Van Gogh or a Schuffenecker Forgery?" Van Gogh Museum Journal (2001), p. 22 n. 27, suggest that the "Sunflowers" and "La Berceuse" triptych was comprised of either this work or the Chicago version (F506), flanked by the flower paintings in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (F455) and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (F458).
Kristin Hoermann Lister. "Tracing a Transformation: Madame Roulin into 'La Berceuse'." Van Gogh Museum Journal (2001), pp. 71–73, 75–76 n. 27, pp. 77–80, fig. 6b (color), provides a close formal analysis of the painting in relationship to the other four versions of "La Berceuse" and discusses Van Gogh's working procedure; argues that this was the third of the five versions, painted between January 30 and February 3, 1889; suggests that the figure of Madame Roulin is based on a combination of elements from previous portraits of the Roulin family by Van Gogh and Gauguin.
Belinda Thomson. Van Gogh. Chicago, 2001, pp. 65, 70, fig. 23.
Kristin Hoermann Lister, and Cornelia Peres, and Inge Fiedler inVan Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. New York, 2001, p. 366.
Elizabeth C. Childs in Cornelia Homburg. Vincent van Gogh and the Painters of the Petit Boulevard. Exh. cat., Saint Louis Art Museum. St. Louis, 2001, pp. 132, 150–51 n. 68.
Lynn DuBard in Cornelia Homburg. Vincent van Gogh and the Painters of the Petit Boulevard. Exh. cat., Saint Louis Art Museum. St. Louis, 2001, p. 224, dates it January–February 1889 and calls it one of the last three versions of the painting.
Debora Silverman. "Framing Art and Sacred Realism: Van Gogh's Ways of Seeing Arles." Van Gogh Museum Journal (2001), p. 60.
Teio Meedendorp and Robert Verhoogt inThe Paintings of Vincent van Gogh in the Collection of the Kröller-Müller Museum. Ed. Toos van Kooten and Mieke Rijnders. Otterlo, 2003, pp. 275–76 n. 4, ill. (color), discuss this painting in relation to the other four versions of the composition (F504, F506, F507, F508) and the meaning of the motif for Van Gogh.
Viviane Rosé. Temps, Affect, Sensation: de Cézanne à Matisse. PhD diss., Universite de Toulouse-Le-Mirail. Lille, , pp. 181–83.
Sjraar van Heugten inVan Gogh and Flowers. Ed. Shôko Kobayashi. Exh. cat., Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 2003, pp. 28, 31, dates it between January 20 and February 3, 1889, and places it third in the series.
Shôko Kobayashi inVan Gogh and Flowers. Ed. Shôko Kobayashi. Exh. cat., Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 2003, p. 141, fig. 3 (color).
Cliff Edwards. The Shoes of Van Gogh: A Spiritual and Artistic Journey to the Ordinary. New York, 2004, pp. 81, 84–89.
Martin Bailey inVan Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors. Exh. cat., Compton Verney, Warwickshire. Edinburgh, 2006, p. 136 n. 17, states that either this painting or the Kröller-Müller version (F504) was no. 76 in the exhibition "Manet and the Post-Impressionists" [Exh. London 1910–11].
Walter Feilchenfeldt. By Appointment Only: Cézanne, Van Gogh and Some Secrets of Art Dealing. English ed. London, 2006, p. 297, ill. p. 296 (color), as "La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin)"; states that the Roulin family sold it to Vollard in the summer of 1900 along with seven other works, via an agent in Arles named Laget.
Jonathan Pascoe Pratt inCézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde. Ed. Rebecca A. Rabinow. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2006, pp. 51, 55, 59 n. 32, fig. 52 (color) [French ed., "De Cézanne à Picasso: Chefs-d'oeuvre de la galerie Vollard," Paris, 2007, pp. 61, 63, 68 n. 32], discusses it in the context of Van Gogh's triptychs.
Ann Dumas and Jonathan Pascoe Pratt inCézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde. Ed. Rebecca A. Rabinow. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2006, p. 379, no. 124, ill., state that this painting was begun by January 30, 1889 and finished by February 3, 1889; argue that the Roulins did not sell it directly to Vollard in 1894 or 1895, but instead sold it to him in 1900 via Henri Laget; state that Vollard probably sold it to Schuffenecker, although there is no record of the sale.
Martin Gayford. The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles. New York, 2006, pp. 270, 293, 295.
Laurence Madeline. Van Gogh, Picasso. Paris, 2006, pp. 18, 130, 168 n. 27, p. 176 n. 23.
Susan Alyson Stein inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 172, 257–58, no. 160, ill. (color and black and white).
Louis van Tilborgh. Van Gogh and the Sunflowers. Amsterdam, 2008, pp. 62–64, 81, fig. 50 (color), identifies it as the version intended as the central panel of a triptych with the Amsterdam version of "Sunflowers" (F458) on the left and the Philadelphia version (F455) on the right.
Marije Vellekoop inVan Gogh: Heartfelt Lines. Ed. Klaus Albrecht Schröder et al. Exh. cat., Albertina, Vienna. Cologne, 2008, p. 55.
Fred Leeman inVan Gogh: Heartfelt Lines. Ed. Klaus Albrecht Schröder et al. Exh. cat., Albertina, Vienna. Cologne, 2008, p. 92.
Jill Elyse Grossvogel. Claude-Emile Schuffenecker: Catalogue Raisonné, Supplement. Chicago, 2008, p. 43, confuses its provenance with the Chicago version (F506).
Susan Alyson Stein inMasterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Ethan Miller. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, p. 235.
Joseph J. Rishel inMasterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Ethan Miller. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, pp. 198–205, 212, 218, no. 38, ill. (color) and p. vi (installation photo), confirms that this picture was the third in the series, painted between January 30 and February 3, 1889, based on Hulsker 1992 and Lister 2001.
Vincent van Gogh. Vincent van Gogh—The Letters. Ed. Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, and Nienke Bakker. London, 2009, vol. 4, pp. 404–5, fig. 5 (color), under letter no. 744, p. 406, fig. 3 (color), under letter no. 745, p. 412, fig. 3 (color), under letter no. 748, p. 416, under letter no. 751, p. 419 n. 5, under letter no. 753; vol. 5, p. 20, fig. 1 (color), under letter no. 775, p. 37, under letter no. 782, pp. 68–69, fig. 3 (color), under letter no. 796, p. 148, under letter no. 822.
Jennifer Helvey. Irises: Vincent van Gogh in the Garden. Los Angeles, 2009, pp. 82, 84, discusses the original religious nature of the triptych format Van Gogh chose for (possibly) this version of "La Berceuse" with two of his "Sunflowers," noting the artist's new modern content.
Martin Bailey. "The Van Goghs at the Grafton Galleries." Burlington Magazine 152 (December 2010), p. 796, notes that Roger Fry and Desmond MacCarthy secured the loan of this painting from Bernheim-Jeune for Exh. London 1910–11.
Anna Gruetzner Robins. "'Manet and the Post-Impressionists': a checklist of exhibits." Burlington Magazine 152 (December 2010), p. 788, notes that de la Faille misidentified the painting on exhibition at the Grafton Galleries, London, 1910–11, and that contemporary criticism confirms that the MMA version was the one on view.
Wouter van der Veen and Peter Knapp. Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days. New York, 2010, p. 238.
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. Van Gogh: The Life. New York, 2011, pp. 681, 699–701, 723–25, 764, 766–67, 769, 782, 784, 794, 811, discuss the series at length, often conflating different versions; claim that the series was intended as a plea to Gauguin to stay in Arles; note that the artist placed the sitter in Gauguin's chair; observe that the artist began a copy of it as a replacement immediately after the Roulins chose this version as their own; record that Theo was nonplussed on first viewing this series; state that the artist later called the series a failure.
Ella Hendriks et al. Vincent van Gogh: Paintings. Vol. 2, Antwerp & Paris, 1885–1888: Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, 2011, p. 352 n. 6.
Louis van Tilborgh in Ella Hendriks et al. Vincent van Gogh: Paintings. Vol. 2, Antwerp & Paris, 1885–1888: Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, 2011, p. 89.
Louis van Tilborgh et al. "Weave Matching and Dating of Van Gogh's Paintings: An Interdisciplinary Approach." Burlington Magazine 154 (February 2012), p. 119 n. 42.
William H. Robinson inVan Gogh Repetitions. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington. New Haven, 2013, p. 31.
Marcia Steele and Elizabeth Steele inVan Gogh Repetitions. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington. New Haven, 2013, pp. 170, 177 n. 13.
H. Travers Newton inVan Gogh Repetitions. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington. New Haven, 2013, pp. 74, 81 n. 16, compares the background of this work to that of the version of the "Portrait of Joseph Roulin" in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
William H. Robinson et al. inVan Gogh Repetitions. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington. New Haven, 2013, p. 91, state erroneously that the sitter's chair is the same one from the Yellow House in both the "La Berceuse" and the "L'Arlésienne" series.
Eliza E. Rathbone inVan Gogh Repetitions. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington. New Haven, 2013, pp. 2, 119–30, 138 nn. 3, 30, figs. 55, 57B (color), identifies the MMA's painting as probably the second version of the portrait and the Otterlo version as the first; states that it is likely that the artist invented the flower motif in the background for this subject and compares the rendering of the blossoms in the four versions of "La Berceuse"; notes that the artist eliminated the flower above the sitter's head (which would not reappear in the series thereafter).
Elizabeth Steele inVan Gogh Repetitions. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington. New Haven, 2013, pp. 130, 134, fig. 65 (x-radiograph), reports the results of a technical examination of the painting; states that the MMA's painting is thought to come from the same bolt of commercially prepared canvas with a white ground as both "Portrait of Camille Roulin" (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) and "Portrait of Camille Roulin" (Philadelphia Museum of Art), attributing this notion to Tilborgh et al. 2012, p. 118 [the only reference to the MMA's painting in Tilborgh et al. 2012 (p.119 n. 42), however, makes no mention of the Camille Roulin portraits].
Martin Bailey. The Sunflowers Are Mine: The Story of Van Gogh's Masterpiece. London, 2013, pp. 174, 224 n. 23.
Johanna Salvant et al. "Investigation of the Grounds of Tasset et l'Hôte Commercially Primed Canvas Used by Van Gogh in the Period 1888 to 1890." Van Gogh's Studio Practice. Ed. Marije Vellekoop et al. Brussels, 2013, p. 195, suggest that the canvas came from a batch the artist received before or on 9 August 1888 and used from early September 1888 until February 1889 and that it was the same batch used for "Portrait of Camille Roulin" (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), "Eugêne Boch (The poet)" (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), and "Sower" (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).
Marieke Jooren. "Van Gogh's Finishing Touches: Varnish, Signatures, Frames and Painted Borders." Van Gogh's Studio Practice. Ed. Marije Vellekoop et al. Brussels, 2013, p. 295, notes that the MMA version given to the Roulins is signed, whereas the repetition the artist made for himself is unsigned.
Walter Feilchenfeldt. Vincent van Gogh: The Years in France. Complete Paintings 1886–1890. London, 2013, pp. 116, 319, 322–24, 342, 346, ill. (color) [1st German ed., 2009], as "La Berceuse: Madame Auguste Roulin".
Isabelle Cahn inVan Gogh/Artaud: Le suicidé de la société. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 2014, p. 30 n. 36, states that Vollard noted in his ledger having bought this painting for Fr 140 on June 29, 1900 and attributes this information erroneously to the exhibition catalogue for New York 2006–7 [no indexed references to the painting in that catalogue make this statement].
Sjraar van Heugten. Van Gogh: Colours of the North, Colours of the South. Exh. cat., Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles. Arles, 2014, pp. 107–8, fig. 51 (color, mislabeled as Boston version), discusses the work in terms that are interchangeable with descriptive terms for the Boston version.
Peter Schjeldahl. "A Visit with Vincent." The New Yorker. August 12, 2014, unpaginated, ill. (color) [online only: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/visit-vincent].
Julian Bell. Van Gogh: A Power Seething. Boston, 2015, pp. 111–12, 122.
Griselda Pollock inVan Gogh. London, 2015, p. 45.
Stefan Koldehoff. Ich und van Gogh: Bilder, Sammler und ihre abenteuerlichen Geschichten. Berlin, 2015, pp. 155–56, discusses its history in the Staechelin and Annenberg collections.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, pp. 448, 518, no. 399, ill. pp. 403, 448 (color).
The chronological order of the five versions of this composition has invited recent scholarship in Druick and Zegers et al. 2001, Lister 2001, and Rathbone 2013. There are two schools of thought regarding the chronology. The greatest uncertainty regards the question of which painting was first in the series, the Boston or Otterlo version. The 2001 sources place The Met’s version third; the most recent source designates The Met’s as second, trading places with the Chicago version.
According to both Druick and Zegers et al. 2001 and Lister 2001, F508 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) was the first version, followed by F506 (Art Institute of Chicago), F505 (The Met), F507 (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam), and F504 (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo). Lister’s order is based on a theory of tracings made by the artist along the way. Her order concurs with that of Hulsker 1992, arrived at differently, from epistolary research.
Rathbone 2013 places The Met’s picture as second in the series and the Otterlo painting first: F504 (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo), F505 (The Met), F506 (Art Institute of Chicago), F507 (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam), and F508 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Rathbone’s order is based on a combination of factors: stylistic changes, changes in the wallpaper motif, technical examination, provenance, and her interpretation of Van Gogh’s letters.
The following letters in the Van Gogh correspondence mention versions of the composition other than the MMA painting and/or the motif of "La Berceuse" in general: Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 739 [writes to Paul Gauguin that he has resumed work on his painting of Mme Roulin, describing the color scheme and subject]; Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 571a/Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 740 [describes a portrait called "la berceuse" which he has on his easel]; Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 573/Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 741 [writes that he is working on the portrait of Roulin's wife. which he had been working on before becoming ill]; Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 574/Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 743 [writes that he has the "Berceuse" he was working on before falling ill, as well as another version, and that he would like to make another repetition if he could get the model again; mentions writing to Gauguin about the painting and expands on the theme of the lullaby; describes the colors of the canvases and his vision of them flanked by sunflower paintings]; Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 582/Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 753 [states that he is "going back to my figure of the Berceuse for the 5th time"]; Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 592/Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 776 [mentions again his idea of "a decoration" composed of a "Berceuse" flanked by two paintings of sunflowers, and includes a sketch of the arrangement]; Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 605/Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 801 [discusses the composition in terms of religious painting]; Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. B21/Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 822 [writes that when Gauguin was in Arles he "once or twice allowed myself to be led into abstraction," including in this composition]
The Met's picture was photographed by Eugène Druet (pl. 74, no. 30/40–2467, ca. 1900–1910, collection Le fonds Druet-Vizzavona, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Fort de Saint-Cyr, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, France), probably during Exh. Paris 1905 or Exh. Paris 1908.
Artist: Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)Date: September 1889Medium: Oil color and essence over black chalk on pink laid ("Ingres") paperAccession: 48.190.2On view in:Not on view
Artist: Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)Date: ca. June 20, 1888Medium: Reed pen and brown ink, wax crayon and watercolor, over graphite; wove paperAccession: 62.151On view in:Not on view