The title Renoir conferred on this painting is untraced. By 1885 it was on the market as La Servante, and for many years afterward the subject was identified, erroneously, as a waitress in the popular Parisian restaurant called Duval’s. Whatever her role, Renoir imparted to his comely model an unaffected grace. As he once said, "I like painting best when it looks eternal without boasting about it: an everyday eternity, revealed on the street corner: a servant-girl pausing a moment as she scours a saucepan, and becoming a Juno on Olympus."
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The Painting: The canvas shimmers with soft, blond light though the setting is indoors. A curtain with a cutwork border affords entry to the light but no access to a view. With loose, fluttering brushwork, Renoir suggests the shape of the corner of a room: beneath the beige wallpaper figured in dark blue is a narrow chair rail; the wall below is a rosy mauve. The model’s dark blue dress with long sleeves and very wide cuffs is buttoned in front and worn under a freshly laundered white apron. Her skirt bulges over a pocket at her left hip. Under a stiff white collar, she has tied a patterned scarf that is knotted under her chin. She wears a ring or rings on her left hand. Her brown hair is untidy, her gaze forthright but not inquisitive. A comparable dated work from 1875 is Renoir’s three-quarter-length portrait of Mademoiselle Legrand (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1986-26-28): a young girl in a dark pinafore with a spatially ambiguous background that includes a curtained window and patterned wallpaper.
The Subject: Renoir’s patron Georges Charpentier was the first recorded owner. He bought three paintings by the artist at the first 1875 Impressionist sale, and, with his wife, commissioned several portraits of members of his family beginning in 1876. Unfortunately, neither the date nor the source from which he acquired the present work have been discovered; it did not come from the Paris dealer Durand-Ruel, the firm to which Charpentier sold it in 1885. The painting was called A Servant when exhibited at the American Art Association in New York in 1886. The French title, La servante, could also mean either “waitress” or “maidservant.” It was in 1912, when the Paris dealer Henri Barbazanges lent the work to an exhibition for sale in Russia, that it was first called La Bonne de chez Duval (A Waitress at Duval’s [Restaurant]). The title A Waitress at Duval’s thus came into use decades after the work was painted, and it is difficult to imagine that Barbazanges, whom Renoir did not work with directly, could have known the specific subject while the artist’s collaborating dealer of many years, Durand-Ruel, did not. In accordance with the earliest published record, scholar Anne Distel has on various occasions chosen to call the picture La servante. The model remains nameless, but her costume is not that worn by waitresses at Duval’s establishments (see below). In fact, the wide cuffs would have been inconvenient for a waitress. The young woman could be a housewife or housemaid and the interior space, while lacking in specificity, surely does not suggest a restaurant.
Duval’s Waitresses: Although men usually served in Paris restaurants in the nineteenth century, the various bouillons owned by the butcher Duval were an exception. When he opened the first one for workers at Les Halles, the Paris central market—at a date which does not seem to have been recorded—, the essential menu item was a broth prepared with boiled (bouillir means to boil) meat scraps. Duval’s numerous establishments were large, efficient, and reasonably priced. Renoir could have been a patron. By 1878, the wait staff comprised uniformed females almost exclusively: in at least seven engravings dating from 1878 to 1902, Duval’s waitresses wear a white bib-apron pinned to their bodice, white half-sleeves gathered at the wrist to protect what must be a black dress, and a small white cap with ruffles and streamers. Jean-François Raffaëlli made a drawing of several of the waitresses wearing the dress, sleeves, and apron, but with bows on the caps instead of streamers. The subject was not popular among the Impressionists, though on two or three occasions Edouard Manet depicted similar figures in black—without a cap, half-sleeves, or a bib apron—serving beer in an environment more raucous than a bouillon. Jean Béraud’s 1889 painting of the Gloppe pastry shop In Paris (Musée Carnavalet, Paris, P1733) depicts two servers in black wearing half-sleeves and aprons without bibs.
Provenance: At the 1912 exhibition in St. Petersburg, the painting was bought by Prince Sergei Aleksandrovich Shcherbatov, a Moscow aristocrat of distinguished lineage who was also an amateur painter and collector. Seized following the Russian revolution, it was subsequently allocated to the new Museum of Modern Western Art in Moscow, often described as the first public art collection in Russia. In 1933, the Renoir was among the last works sold by the Soviet government to raise hard currency in the west. Through the dealer Knoedler, it was acquired by Stephen C. Clark, who bequeathed it to The Met.
Katharine Baetjer 2022
1. See Merete Bodelsen, “Early Impressionist Sales 1874–94 in the Light of Some Unpublished Procès-Verbaux,” Burlington Magazine 110 (June 1968), pp. 339–40, esp. pp. 333–36. 2. Les Types de Paris (Paris, 1889), n.p.
Inscription: Signed (lower left): Renoir.
Georges Charpentier, Paris (until 1885; sold on October 31, for Fr 800, to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1885–1906; stock nos. 762 (stockbook 1884–90) and 41 (new stockbook, 1891), as "La servante"; sold on February 3, 1906, for Fr 15,000 to Hébrard for Wagram]; Louis-Alexandre Berthier, prince de Wagram, Paris (1906–9; consigned on October 6, 1909 to Galerie Druet, Paris; sold in 1910 for Fr 12,000 to Barbazanges); [Barbazanges, Paris, 1910–12; sold in 1912 to Shcherbatov]; Sergei Aleksandrovich Shcherbatov, Moscow (1912–18/19); Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow (1918/19–33; cat. 1928, p. 90, no. 508, sold on May 9, 1933 through Knoedler to Clark); Stephen C. Clark, New York (1933–d. 1960)
New York. American Art Association. "Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists of Paris," April 10–28, 1886, no. 213 (as "A Servant").
New York. National Academy of Design. "Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists of Paris," May 25–June 30, 1886, no. 213.
Berlin. Galerie Cassirer. "Renoir," December 1901, no. 19.
St. Petersburg. Institut Français. "Exposition centennale de l'art français," January 28–?, 1912, no. 529 (as "La Bonne de chez Duval," lent by Barbazanges) [see Jean 1912].
New York. Century Club. "French Masterpieces of the Nineteenth Century," January 11–February 10, 1936, no. 15 (as "Une servante de chez Duval," lent by Stephen C. Clark, Esq.).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Renoir: A Special Exhibition of His Paintings," May 18–September 12, 1937, no. 13 (lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 336 (lent by Mr. Stephen C. Clark).
New York. Duveen Galleries. "Renoir, Centennial Loan Exhibition, 1841-1941," November 8–December 6, 1941, no. 15 (as "Une Servante de chez Duval [A Waitress at Duval's]" lent by Mr. Stephen C. Clark, New York).
New York. Century Association. "Paintings from the Stephen C. Clark Collection," June 6–September 28, 1946, unnum. checklist.
New York. Paul Rosenberg & Co. "Collectors' Choice: Masterpieces of French Art from New York Private Collections," March 17–April 18, 1953, no. 5 (as "A Waitress of the Duval Restaurant," lent by Mr. Stephen C. Clark).
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "A Collectors Taste: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Clark," January 12–30, 1954, no. 14.
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "Pictures Collected by Yale Alumni," May 8–June 18, 1956, no. 110 (lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. Wildenstein. "Renoir," April 8–May 10, 1958, no. 11 (lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 1–September 1, 1958, no. 113 (lent by Stephen C. Clark).
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Painting," April 25–May 24, 1959, unnumbered cat. (p. 41, lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 7–September 7, 1959, no. 89 (lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 6–September 4, 1960, no. 94 (lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Paintings from the Bequest of Stephen Clark," October 17, 1961–January 7, 1962, no catalogue [not mentioned in press release but probably included in exhibition].
Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh. "Franse meesters uit het Metropolitan Museum of Art: Realisten en Impressionisten," March 15–May 31, 1987, no. 18.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "From Delacroix to Matisse," March 15–May 10, 1988, no. 19.
Moscow. Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. "From Delacroix to Matisse," June 10–July 30, 1988, no. 19.
Fort Lauderdale. Museum of Art. "Corot to Cézanne: 19th Century French Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," December 22, 1992–April 11, 1993, no catalogue.
San Diego Museum of Art. "Idol of the Moderns: Pierre Auguste Renoir and American Painting," June 29–September 15, 2002, no. 2 (as "The Waitress at Duval's Restaurant").
El Paso Museum of Art. "Idol of the Moderns: Pierre Auguste Renoir and American Painting," November 3, 2002–February 16, 2003, no. 2.
Williamstown. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. "The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings," June 4–September 4, 2006, no. 340.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 97.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings: The Clark Brothers Collect," May 22–August 19, 2007, no. 340.
François Monod. "L'Exposition centennale de l'art français à Saint-Pétersbourg (2e et dernier article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 4th ser., 7 (April 1912), p. 318.
René Jean. L'Art français a Saint-Pétersbourg: Exposition centennale. Exh. cat.Paris, 1912, p. 90, notes that it was lent to the 1912 exhibition in St. Petersburg by Barbazanges and has since been bought by a Russian private collector.
Louis Hautecœur. "L'Exposition centennale de peinture française à Saint-Pétersbourg." Les Arts no. 129 (September 1912), ill. p. 30, as in the collection of M. Barbazanges.
François Fosca. Renoir. Paris, 1923, pl. 17.
[Boris Nikolaevich] Ternovietz. "Le Musée d'Art Moderne de Moscou." L'amour de l'art 6 (December 1925), pp. 459, 462, ill., notes that this picture was bought at the 1912 exhibition in St. Petersburg by S. A. Scherbatow.
Musée d'art moderne de Moscou: Catalogue illustré. Moscow, 1928, p. 90, no. 508, pl. 21.
Louis Réau. Catalogue de l'art français dans les musées russes. Paris, 1929, pp. 129–30, no. 1079.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "French Masterpieces, 1850–1900: An Important Loan Exhibition of Painting Currently at the Century Club." Art News 34 (February 1, 1936), pp. 5–6, ill.
Augustus Vincent Tack. Exhibition of French Masterpieces of the Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat., Century Club. New York, 1936, unpaginated, no. 15, ill., tentatively dates it 1875.
Harry B. Wehle. Renoir: A Special Exhibition of His Paintings. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1937, p. 5, no. 13, ill.
Josephine L. Allen. "Paintings by Renoir." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 32 (May 1937), pp. 109, 112, ill., comments that it portrays the waitress "who doubtless served many of Renoir's meager meals".
Henry McBride. "The Renoirs in America." Art News 35 (May 1, 1937), p. 158, ill. p. 73.
James W. Lane. "Thirty-three Masterpieces in a Modern Collection: Mr. Stephen C. Clark's Paintings by American and European Masters." Art News Annual 37 (February 25, 1939), p. 132, ill. p. 138, dates it 1875–76; notes the similar pose of the figure in Renoir's "Madame Henriot in Costume" also of 1875–76 (Columbus Museum of Art; D123); compares the delicate colors in this picture to Japanese prints and Whistler's portraits from the early 1880s.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. Renoir, Centennial Loan Exhibition, 1841–1941. Exh. cat., Duveen Galleries. New York, 1941, pp. 17, 124–25, no. 15, ill. p. 37, dates it about 1875; notes that Renoir met this waitress at one of the restaurants belonging to the Duval chain in Paris, and that he asked her to pose in his studio after being "impressed by the uniform dress of the waitresses".
Michel Drucker. Renoir. Paris, 1944, pp. 39, 41, 191, no. 23, ill.
Hans Huth. "Impressionism Comes to America." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 29 (April 1946), p. 239 n. 22.
Howard Devree. "Stephen C. Clarks Open Art Show at Home to Help Fresh Air Association of St. John." New York Times (April 2, 1948), p. 21.
C. A. "L'Art moderne français dans les collections des musées étrangers—I. Musée d'Art Moderne Occidental à Moscou." Cahiers d'art 25, no. 2 (1950), p. 346, no. 10.
A Collector's Taste: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Clark. Exh. cat., M. Knoedler & Co. New York, 1954, unpaginated, no. 14, ill.
Denis Rouart. Renoir. Geneva, 1954, p. 32.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 147–48, ill., tentatively date it about 1875 and identify it as possibly no. 213 in Exh. New York 1886; note that the Duval restaurants were a low-priced chain "in which Renoir may have eaten many times during his early, difficult years" and that this waitress was "clearly one of those placid women Renoir always loved to paint".
Margaretta M. Salinger. "Windows Open to Nature." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (Summer 1968), unpaginated, ill.
François Daulte. Auguste Renoir: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint. Vol. 1, Figures. Lausanne, 1971, unpaginated, no. 101, ill., dates it 1874.
Elda Fezzi. L'opera completa di Renoir. [reprint ed., 1981]. Milan, 1972, pp. 94–95, no. 128, ill.
Robert C. Williams. Russian Art and American Money, 1900–1940. Cambridge, Mass., 1980, p. 34.
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 91, 157, ill. (color).
Anne Distel inRenoir. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. [London], 1985, p. 26 [French ed., p. 42].
Roger Hurlburt. "Free Spirits." Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) (December 20, 1992), ill. p. 1D.
Helen Kohen. "Lasting Impressions." Miami Herald (December 20, 1992), p. 6I.
Albert Kostenevich inMorozov and Shchukin—The Russian Collectors: Monet to Picasso. Ed. Georg W. Költzsch. Exh. cat., Museum Folkwang Essen. Cologne, 1993, pp. 122, 129 n. 166.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 480, ill.
Sarah Lees inThe Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2006, pp. 315, 341, no. 340.
Gilbert T. Vincent and Sarah Lees inThe Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2006, p. 156, fig. 127 (color).
Richard Rand inThe Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2006, p. 253.
Guy-Patrice Dauberville, and Michel Dauberville, with Camille Fremontier-Murphy. Renoir: Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles. Vol. 1, 1858–1881. Paris, 2007, pp. 436–37, no. 415, ill.
Susan Alyson Stein inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 135, 251–52, no. 97, ill. (color and black and white).
Susan Alyson Stein inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 151, 297, no. 140, ill. (color and black and white).
Anne Distel. Renoir. New York, 2010, pp. 156, 310, 387 n. 3, colorpl. 140, offers a new identification of the model as the one who appears in several other paintings by Renoir, including "Woman with a Cup of Coffee" (ca. 1877–78, private collection); notes that the title "Servante chez Duval" came later.
Renoir must have eaten many times at one of the Duval chain of low-priced restaurants in Paris during his early years. This portrait of a waitress in her restaurant uniform was painted about 1875.
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