Barthélemy Prieur (French, ca. 1536–1611)
Bronze with red-brown lacquer patina
H. 7 in. (17.8 cm)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection 1982 (1982.60.126)
This statuette of a seated woman calmly braiding her hair is known in numerous examples, which differ in degree of refinement and facture. It is stylistically similar to a number of bronzes representing antique and modern genre subjects that include a praying boy, a woman cutting her nails, and a crouching woman with a peeing child. The female figure's pose, seated on a draped pedestal with crossed legs, is closely related to a bronze statuette of a crouching nymph pulling a thorn from her foot in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The fluid lines of the figure's composition, including its elongated torso and attenuated legs, observe the canon of proportion popularized in northern France by the engravings of the School of Fontainebleau. The statue's oval face, with its rounded forehead and long nose, suggests it is the work of Barthélemy Prieur, active bronzier and court sculptor to Henri IV of France. Prieur is believed to have modeled a number of genre subjects drawn from rural life, and his workshop produced numerous small bronze figures similar to Girl Braiding Her Hair. Unlike many of the bronzes attributed to him, this statuette does not reference the antique. Although nude, the figure conveys a spirit of innocence.