Winner of the coveted Prix de Rome in 1861, Lefebvre fulfilled his early promise both as a painter of meticulously executed portraits and nudes and as a teacher: during his long career, he earned three Salon medals, was appointed to the French Academy of Fine Arts, and attained the rank of Commander in the Legion of Honor.
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe commissioned Graziella in 1878. It depicts the heroine of Alphonse de Lamartine’s popular tale of the same name, which was first published in 1849. The story revolves around the narrator’s love for the beautiful daughter of a Neapolitan fisherman. Lefebvre portrayed her mending a fishing net as she gazes over her shoulder toward the distant simmering profile of Mount Vesuvius.
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Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Jules LeFebvre. 1878.
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, New York (1878–d. 1887; commissioned from the artist)
New York. Seventh Regiment Armory. "Seventh Regiment New Armory Fair," November 1879, no. 177 (as "'Graziella'," lent by Miss. C. L. Wolfe).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Taste of the Seventies," April 2–September 10, 1946, no. 135 (as "Graziella, a Girl of Capri").
Hempstead, N.Y. Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University. "Art Pompier: Anti-Impressionism, 19th Century French Salon Painting," October 22–December 15, 1974, no. 65.
Oklahoma City Museum of Art. "Artist as Narrator: Nineteenth Century Narrative Art in England and France," September 8–November 27, 2005, no. 49.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT.
Edward Strahan [Earl Shinn], ed. The Art Treasures of America. Philadelphia, , vol. 1, pp. 129, 134, calls it "Fisher-Girl" in the text and "'Gaziella,' the Net-Maker" in the list of works; identifies the subject as [Alphonse de] Lamartine's Capri heroine; criticizes the integration of the figure and landscape as artificial.
Cicerone. "Private Galleries: Collection of Miss Catharine L. Wolfe." Art Amateur 2 (March 1880), p. 76, as "Fisher-Girl".
Jules Claretie. Peintres & sculpteurs contemporains. Vol. 2, Artistes vivants en janvier 1881. Paris, 1884, pp. 358, 360–61, states that Lefebvre painted this picture immediately following the Exposition Universelle of 1878 and that it has not been seen by the public.
Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Note Book." Art Amateur 18 (December 1887), p. 2, notes that a small replica of this picture was sold to John Wanamaker from the Haseltine collection.
"The Fine Arts: Recent Gifts to the Metropolitan Museum." Critic (April 16, 1887), p. 194, as "Fisher-Girl at Capri".
"Gallery and Studio: The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Art Amateur 18 (December 1887), p. 7.
Claude Vento (Violette). Les Peintres de la femme. Paris, 1888, p. 324.
Walter Rowlands. "The Miss Wolfe Collection." Art Journal, n.s., (January 1889), p. 13.
"The Catherine [sic] Wolfe Collection of Paintings." National Magazine (July–August 1893), p. 180.
"The Metropolitan Museum of Art—The French Painters." New York Times (May 22, 1895), p. 4.
Catalogue of the Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1898, p. 153, no. 501, as "'Graziella,' a Girl of Capri"; notes that it was commissioned by Wolfe in 1878.
Harry B. Wehle. "Seventy-Five Years Ago." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (April 1946), p. 202, calls it "Graziella, the Girl of Capri".
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 58.
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. 190, ill., identify the subject as Graziella, described as the daughter of a fisherman on the island of Capri in Lamartine's novel "Confidences" ["Graziella" was first published in 1849 as part of "Confidences" and was subsequently published as a separate novel; see F. M. Warren, ed., "Graziella par A. de Lamartine," Boston, 1908, pp. vii–xi"].
David L. Shirey. "'Art Pompier' Revived at Hofstra." New York Times (November 3, 1974), p. 134, ill., describes it as a "portrait of a girl who awaits the return of her love, a fisherman".
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 461, ill.
Rebecca A. Rabinow. "Catharine Lorillard Wolfe: The First Woman Benefactor of the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 147 (March 1998), pp. 52, 55 n. 27.
Susan P. Casteras inArtist as Narrator: Nineteenth Century Narrative Art in England and France. Ed. Hardy George. Exh. cat., Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Oklahoma City, 2005, pp. 69, 136, no. 49, ill. p. 65 (color), discusses it among images of rural women that were "sanitized doses of beauty, charm, and vulnerability" preferred by the viewing public.
There is a small replica of this composition (oil on panel, 18 x 10 in., Sotheby's, New York, October 17, 1990, no. 188, bought in).
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