Although Corot’s celebrity rests on his landscapes, his contemporaries were partial to his figure paintings, especially scenes drawn from contemporary life that he made toward the end of his career. Appreciated for their unaffected grace and serenity—what the French critics called naïveté—these works were eagerly sought by collectors. Corot’s friends recalled that he looked forward to painting them as a refreshing break from routine. The girl depicted here resembles Emma Dobigny, who later became his favorite model.
Inscription: Signed (lower right): COROT
Georges Camus, Arras (from 1864; given to him by the artist on February 24); [Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, until 1890; sold on October 3, for Fr 7,500, to Boussod, Valadon]; [Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Paris, 1890–91; stock no. 20953; sold on March 31, 1891, for Fr 13,780, to Van Horne]; Sir William Van Horne, Montreal (1891; sold on September 30 to Boussod, Valadon); [Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Paris, 1891–93; stock no. 21694; sold on April 24, 1893, for Fr 12,220, to Van Horne]; Sir William Van Horne, Montreal (1893–d. 1915); his grandson's wife, Mrs. William Cornelius Covenhoven Van Horne, Montreal (by 1962–65; sold in June 1965 to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, New York, 1965; sold on September 22 to Annenberg]; Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, Rancho Mirage, Calif. (1965–99; jointly with MMA, 1999–his d. 2002)
Art Association of Montreal. "Seventeenth Loan Exhibition of Paintings in Oils and Water Colours," November 29–December 28, 1893, no. 13 (as "Peasant Girl").
Art Association of Montreal. "Thirtieth Loan Exhibition," December 8–19, 1908, no. 9 (as "Figure," lent by Sir Wm. C. Van Horne).
Art Association of Montreal. "Inaugural Loan Exhibition Held in Connection with the Opening of the New Building of the Art Association by T. R. H. The Governor General and Duchess of Connaught," December 9, 1912–January 6, 1913, no. 25 (as "L'Orpheline").
Art Association of Montreal. "Exhibition: A Selection from the Collection of Paintings of the Late Sir William Van Horne, K.C.M.G., 1843–1915," October 16–November 5, 1933, no. 127 (as "Peasant Girl by a Wall").
London. Tate Gallery. "The Annenberg Collection," September 2–October 8, 1969, no. 10.
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.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
Alfred Robaut. L'Œuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré. [reprint 1965]. Paris, 1905, vol. 2, pp. 318–19, no. 1042, ill., dates it 1850–60, observes that the support is "carton" (cardboard), and records a four-line inscription on the back, "Donné à mon ami M. Camus, fils. C. Corot, ce 24 février 1864," indicating that the name Camus had been effaced (the inscription no longer visible because of the secondary support, which was added later).
John La Farge. The Higher Life in Art. New York, 1908, unpaginated, ill.
E. Waldmann. "Art in America—Modern French Pictures: Some American Collections." Burlington Magazine 17 (April 1910), p. 65.
August F. Jaccaci. "Figure Pieces of Corot in America: I." Art in America 1 (April 1913), pp. 82, 87, fig. 9.
"Pictures in Sir William Van Horne's Collection." New York Times Magazine (September 19, 1915), p. 21.
C. Bernheim de Villers. Corot: Peintre de figures. Paris, 1930, p. 56, no. 139, ill.
Seymour de Ricci. "L'Incendie dans la collection de Sir William Horne." Beaux-Arts (May 14, 1933), p. 4 [see Ref. Rishel 2009].
Charles Wasserman. "Canada's Finest Art Collection." Mayfair 26 (October 1952), ill. p. 53 [see Ref. Rishel 2009].
R. H. Hubbard. European Paintings in Canadian Collections: II. Modern Schools. Toronto, 1962, p. 151.
Catherine Barnett. "A Very Private View: Inside Walter Annenberg's Personal Paradise." Art & Antiques 6 (March 1989), pp. 96, 99, ill. (color), calls it the earliest painting in the Annenberg collection and dates it between 1850 and 1860.
Janet M. Brooke. Discerning Tastes: Montreal Collectors, 1880–1920. Exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, 1989, p. 19 n. 31, pp. 73–74, 184, no. 255, figs. 4 (installation view) and 34.
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. 2–3, 130, ill. (color and black and white), dates it 1850–60; tentatively suggests that this picture depicts the eldest daughter of Mme Edouard Delalain, a friend of the artist.
Jérôme Coignard. "Le Salon de peinture de Mr. et Mrs. Annenberg." Beaux arts no. 92 (July–August 1991), p. 65.
Michael Pantazzi inCorot. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, p. 406.
Gary Tinterow in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1999–2000." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 58 (Fall 2000), pp. 42–43, ill. (color), dates it about 1860–64; notes the girl's resemblance to Emma Dobigny, later one of Corot's favorite models.
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. 2–6, no. 1, ill. (color), dates it 1860–64.
It is likely that Alfred Robaut, whose catalogue raisonné of Corot's work was published in 1905, had seen this painting considerably earlier, perhaps by 1890 and certainly by 1893, when it was on the Paris art market. Robaut observed that it was painted on cardboard (see References). At some point after he saw the painting, it was laid down on wood and subsequently cradled, which essentially obscured the primary support. This led modern scholars, from M. Roy Fisher (in London 1969) through Joseph J. Rishel (2009), to conclude that it was painted directly on wood. However, technical examination at The Met in 2016 confirmed Robaut's original observation.