Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Floral Path (1882)

 Jules Bastien-Lepage: The Floral Path (The Little Shepherdess)

The wild flowers which had died back during the winter months are in bloom in Bastien-Lepage’s painting of a young shepherdess, Fleur du Chemin. The abundant white heads of Queen Anne’s Lace, a rogue among the crops, dominates the more delicate ox-eye daisies, poppies and other flowers that blossom at the edges of the large rolling fields of north-eastern France. Being a terrain close to the artist’s home village of Damvillers, they were completely familiar. The girl who passes the viewer, in addition to her staff, carries a bunch of what appear to be golden ragwort, common in these regions. Her flock is unseen and, unlike the iconic shepherdesses of Jean-François Millet, overtones of rustic piety are missing. Indeed, where Millet’s grande bergère is clothed and cloaked against the windswept plain of Chailly, Lepage’s is dressed in a well-worn coat, striped skirt and long black shoes that are evidently too big for her. Framed by thick golden curls, her gaze is nevertheless compelling. The painter would have us believe that she is a wayside flower, blooming unkempt, on the hillsides of the Meuse. [Sotheby’s]

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