Jean-Baptiste Mallet

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Jean-Baptiste Mallet
Domestic Interior with a Young Woman and a Wet Nurse Feeding a Child
Opaque watercolor on paper.
7 7/8 x 10 7/16 inches (200 x 265 mm)
Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978.

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Watermark: none visible through lining.
Mallet was primarily a draftsman, specializing in paintings on paper executed in watercolor and gouache. Throughout his career he explored genre scenes set in interiors, detailing furnishings and domestic behaviors following the revolution during the Directory (1795-99), Consulate (1799-1804) and the First Empire under Napoleon (1804-1814/15). He continued to show his work at the annual Salon until 1827. Mallet's colorful vignettes are reminiscent of the Jean Baptiste Greuze's domestic dramas without the overt moralizing tone.
At center, a woman is dressed for the market, wearing wooden clogs, basket in hand as if she is about to depart (or has just arrived home). She pauses contemplatively as a wet nurse feeds a child from a steaming bowl while a cat looks on. In the background an older woman sits with her spinning by the fire as a young man warms himself. The young mother wears a red and white striped skirt reflecting the French taste around 1790 for striped fabrics. Along with a white bonnet and bodice, she sports a red and white patterned scarf worn as a fichu. To guard against the chill, she has wrapped around her body a pale gold shawl, which has slipped from her left shoulder and pools in her basket. Such shawls came into regular use during the latter half of the 1790s under the Directory.


Inscribed in pen and brown ink, in an eighteenth-century hand, on old framing paper, "Mallet".

Probably sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 20 October 1975, lot 75, not repr.; probably sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 7 May 1976, lot 46, not repr.; acquired from Rosenberg and Stiebl, New York.

Denison, Cara D., with Stephanie Wiles and Ruth S. Kraemer. Fantasy and Reality : Drawings from the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Collection. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1995, no. 24, repr. in color.

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