The Charitable Woman (La Dame de Charité)

Object Details


The Charitable Woman (La Dame de Charité)


Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French, 1725 - 1805)




1772 to 1775


Brush and brown ink and brush and gray and brown wash, heightened with white gouache on blue paper


48.9 × 66 cm (19 1/4 × 26 in.)

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A woman encourages a hesitant young girl to present a purse of money to a bedridden couple, who lean forward to express their gratitude. While the mother urges her child to hand the purse to the old man, a nun and two young men wait their turn to extend charity. Jean-Baptiste Greuze portrayed the mother and daughter in fine clothing to emphasize the disparity between their lives and that of the impoverished couple, whose only valuable possession, a sword, is prominently displayed behind them. Greuze was famous for moralizing images like this one, which were meant to illustrate the importance of good deeds and childhood instruction in a domestic setting. In The Charitable Woman, a complex scene that explores a wide range of human expression, he used spontaneous applications of wash to intensify the sense of drama.

Greuze produced The Charitable Woman as a compositional study for a painting of the same name,now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon. Prior to making this drawing, he made numerous studies of individual figures, such as the Study of the Head of an Old Woman,who is one of the principal characters in this scene. These carefully rendered drawings provide evidence of Greuze's working methods and testify to his careful preparation.


Norblin Collection

Greuze the Draftsman (May 14 to December 1, 2002) (exhibited ex-catalogue)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), September 10 to December 1, 2002
A Revolutionary Age: Drawing in Europe, 1770-1820 (January 18 to May 1, 2005)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 18 to May 1, 2005
Carmontelle's Transparency: An 18th Century Motion Picture (March 14 to June 18, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 14 to June 18, 2006
Rococo to Revolution: Eighteenth-Century French Drawings from Los Angeles Collections (July 1 to September 21, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 1 to September 21, 2014