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Washerwoman, 18th century

Jean-Baptiste Deshays de Colleville
French, 1729-1765
Oil on canvas, oval (one of a pair)
19-1/2 x 16-3/8 in. (49.5 x 41.6 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© The Norton Simon Foundation

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Washerwoman follows the type of pastoral cabinet pictures that were quite popular during the Rococo period. They allowed for the playful combination of rural views, ruins and imaginative or exotic clothing worn by the participants. Thematic interest took second place to the aesthetic concerns for a painterly, colorful surface and the mood or sensibility of the subject.

Deshays, a native of Rouen, was the first prize winner of the Prix de Rome in 1751. During his four years in Rome he absorbed the lessons of the Bolognese masters Domenichino and Guercino. Later he was deeply influenced by Francois Boucher whose daughter Jean-Elisabeth he married in 1758. He enjoyed a growing reputation as a painter of religious subjects so much so that, following the Salon of 1761, in which his Scourging of St. Andrew was exhibited, he was hailed by Diderot as the most important painter in France.

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