Springtime, with its associations of joyful new life, was a source of constant inspiration for Denis. This double-sided canvas presents two studies for his 1899 painting Virginal Spring (private collection), in which young women engage in a purification ritual evocative of Christian baptism and communion. The verdant setting is the Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, whose tree-lined glades and dainty wildflowers captivated Denis. He later reprised this composition in his mural series Eternal Spring (Musée départemental Maurice Denis, Saint-Germain-en-Laye), one of his most ambitious attempts at rejuvenating the practice of decorative painting in France.
Inscription: Signed with studio monogram: M/D [in circle]
the artist (sold in 1899 or 1901 to Vollard); [Ambroise Vollard, Paris, from 1899 or 1901]; private collection, France; [Brame & Lorenceau, Paris, until 1999; sold in 1999 to Devrishian]; David Allen Devrishian, Fairfield, N. J. (1999; his gift to MMA)
Paris. Galerie "la Cave". "L'École de Pont-Aven: Peintures, pastels, dessins," April 20–June 17, 1978, unnumbered cat. (as "Virginal printemps," 1894).
National Museum of Art, Osaka. "Art Nouveau in Painting: Europe and Japan," October 10–December 7, 1980, no. 8 (as "Virginal Spring").
J. P. L. Fine Arts, London. "Private View: A Selection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Drawings, Watercolours, Pastels, and Paintings, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century French Sculpture," November 23, 1988–January 27, 1989, no. 46 (as "Virginal Printemps," ca. 1894).
Paris. Huguette Berès. "Au Temps des Nabis," May 29–July 20, 1990, no. 51 (as "Virginal Printemps").
Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Center. "European Fine Art Fair," March 8–16,1997, not in handbook (exhibited by the Berès Gallery).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painters in Paris: 1895–1950," March 8–December 31, 2000, extended to January 14, 2001, unnumbered cat. (p. 58; dated ca. 1897).
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," September 14–November 24, 2002, no. 2.
Tokyo. Bunkamura Museum of Art. "Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 7, 2002–March 9, 2003, no. 2.
Xenia Muratova. "Exhibitions in Paris." Burlington Magazine 120 (July 1978), p. 480, fig. 49 (verso), calls it "Virginal Spring" and dates it 1894.
Anisabelle Berès, ed. Au Temps des Nabis. Exh. cat., Huguette Berès. Paris, 1990, unpaginated, no. 51, ill. (recto, color, and verso), dates it about 1894.
Anisabelle Berès, ed. Maurice Denis 1870–1943. Exh. cat., Huguette Berès. Paris, 1992, unpaginated, no. 48, ill. (recto, color, and verso), dates it about 1899.
Jean-Paul Bouillon. Maurice Denis. Geneva, 1993, p. 197 n. 9.
Jean-Louis Gaillemin. "Foire de Maastricht: Dix Ans." Connaissance des arts no. 537 (March 1997), p. 93, fig. 4 (color), calls it "Printemps virginal" and dates it about 1899.
"A Selection of 1999 Museum Acquisitions." Apollo 150 (December 1999), ill. p. 44 (color).
Lisa M. Messinger in "Recent Acquisitions. A Selection: 1998–1999." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Fall 1999), p. 48, ill. (color).
Grace Glueck. "When One City Was the Heart of Art's Youth." New York Times (March 10, 2000), p. E39.
William S. Lieberman inPicasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 2002, pp. 28, 166, no. 2, ill. p. 31 (color), dates it 1897.
Vanessa Lecomte inMaurice Denis: L'Éternel Printemps. Ed. Vanessa Lecomte. Exh. cat., Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny. Paris, 2012, pp. 51, 53 n. 74, calls it "Virginal printemps" and dates it 1899.