Portrait of Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña

Portrait of Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña


Jean-François Millet

(French, 1814-1875)

Black chalk with heightening in pale green-blue chalk

Support: Blue wove paper faded to gray

Sheet: 61.4 x 48.7 cm (24 3/16 x 19 3/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 2003.41


Jean-François Millet executed this boldly drawn life-sized portrait at an early point in his career when he had very little money and his paintings would not sell. Another artist had suggested he make drawings to trade for clothing, and this example belongs to a group of four chalk portraits of artist colleagues that Millet sold together for only twenty French francs (about three dollars). The sitter, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña, became known for his thickly painted, luminous and colorful landscapes. In this impressively large portrait of Diaz, Millet used the black chalk in a broad yet accurate manner to describe the sitter's curly hair, bushy beard, and brows. A few touches of light-colored chalk provide a highlight on the collar, and the shadow across part of the face adds expression to Diaz's slightly furrowed brow and direct gaze.

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