ca. late 19th century
A Mother and Her Children
Oil on canvas | Signed lower left "J. Portielge" | canvas back-stamped by artist supplier Moirinat, Paris [184 Faubourg Saint Honoré]
Item # 106KJT15P
A brilliant work by an unknown Barbizon artist, the canvas signed lower left J. Portielge and attributed incorrectly on a label verso to the portrait and genre painter Jan Frederik Pieter Portielje, the painting is a rich depiction of the Dutch peasant class during the last quarter of the 19th century. Executed on a canvas from the famed artist supply shop of Moirinat of Paris (active 1864-1923), the scene is heavy in atmosphere with gray skies overhead and subtle hints of blue breaking through while the grasses underfoot range from cold and low-saturation at the forefront to brilliant higher-chroma green in the background as the unseen sun pierces the clouds. The focal point of the image is the barefoot daughter, her piercing eyes staring deadpan at the viewer, unwavering and almost uninterested. Her brother busies himself with a hat full of berries, the same berries the toddler lifts to show her mother. And while the mother's face is mostly obscured from view, it is immediately evident just how young she is.
We would love to know more about the painter of this work, as it is an incredibly moving scene with brilliant manipulation of light and color; the painter conveys an emotion in the scene, immediately depressing while using the warmth of colors in the distance and the subtle parting of clouds to hint at the good that is to come. And the personalities and character of each is so keenly developed: the strong and tired mother, to young for the responsibility of so many children with so few resources; the carefree boy with his dirty clothes thinking only about his stomach; and the maturity of his sister.
Measurements: 35 5/8" H x 31 5/8" W [canvas]; 40 1/8" H x 35 7/8" W x 1 3/4" D [frame]
Professionally conserved: surface cleaned, patch applied verso to 3" tear upper left in canvas, 2 small holes upper center restored, all with associated inpainting, sealed in Damar varnish. Stretcher bars and keys not original. Under UV showing the flares of the fresh varnish, the purple flares of the inpainting of aforementioned repairs, small area of inpaint in the skirt, three speck touchups (woman's hip and left of her hip), inpainting to baby's feet just below woman's arm; varnish somewhat obscures examination of surface. Contemporary frame with abrasions. A very fine presentation, ready to place.