Here, Auguste Lepère presented a pair of laundresses ascending steps from a wash boat on the Seine River, where they could pay to clean the loads they had collected. A receptacle for various types of waste, the river was a source of public concern for the unsanitary environment in which laundry was done. Lepère evoked these difficult working conditions by juxtaposing a youthful laundress with one who has spent time in the industry. The figures’ mirrored poses and their contrasting bold and muted tones suggest the passage of time as they carry out their work—a message emphasized by the artist’s caption at upper left: “Youth passes quickly. Virtue!”
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