The Sick Child

The Sick Child


Jean-François Millet

(French, 1814-1875)

Black crayon; framing lines in black crayon

Support: Vellum

Sheet: 40.4 x 32.1 cm (15 7/8 x 12 5/8 in.); Image: 32.9 x 24.9 cm (12 15/16 x 9 13/16 in.)

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Paul J. Vignos, Jr. 1998.300



Jean-François Millet’s paintings of French rural life, especially those of peasants and farmers in their working environment, redefined the imagery of everyday life in the nineteenth century. Large-scale paintings such as The Gleaners (1857) presented the poorest of laborers with a dignity and nobility informed by classical traditions in French painting. At the same time he was working on major paintings for public exhibitions, Millet was also making smaller-scale drawings. Since drawings were less expensive, there was a much larger market for this type of work, and Millet created finished sheets in both black crayon and pastel as he catered to this demand. The work shown here is the first version of a theme the artist drew again in pastel in a more finished version (now lost). This crayon drawing shows, on the other hand, Millet’s thinking process. We can see him working out the composition because several changes are visible, most notably in the bowl held by the father and the cat in the window. Though taken from everyday life, Millet’s tender treatment of this family group recalls the biblical subject of the Holy Family.

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