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Pierre Brebiette

(circa 1598 Mantes – 1642 Paris)

A Young Maid Suckling Her Child. Inventaire du Fonds Français 237; Exhibition catalogue Seule la Peinture: Pierre Brebiette, Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans, 2001/02, p.49, no. 5.

This intriguing scene belongs to a series of five rare etchings on genre subjects which Brebiette made around 1620. Despite the very small format he succeeds in creating a highly intense atmosphere and pictorial presence. A sturdy young peasant maid is suckling her baby, her engorged breast protruding openly from her bodice. She gazes steadily and candidly at herself in the mirror and thus indirectly addresses the viewer. The ghost of a smile steals across her face, thereby directly involving the viewer in this intimate moment. The maid’s strong body is masterfully rendered with precise lines, giving it a marked three-dimensional quality. Brebiette has sketched in the background with bold, simple cross and parallel hatchings; the linework is of great graphic appeal. This domestic scene has something enigmatic about it, and it is this unorthodox iconography which makes Brebiette one of the most original 17th century French etchers. A very fine, contrasting impression with even margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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