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The Laundress (La Blanchisseuse)
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Jean-Baptiste Greuze
French, 1761
Oil on canvas
16 x 12 7/8 in.
83.PA.387

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"This little laundress is charming, but she's a rascal I wouldn't trust an inch," the critic Denis Diderot declared when this painting was first exhibited in 1761. Indeed, Jean-Baptiste Greuze stripped the traditional theme of the washerwoman of its association with the virtue of hard work and instead overlaid it with a titillating sensuality typical of Rococo art. In a room scattered with wet and drying laundry, a disheveled maidservant with an exposed stocking and slipper fixes the viewer with a provocative gaze.

Greuze used a heavily loaded brush to apply patches of paint that describe texture and surface: the folds of the young woman's dress, the heaviness of wet cloth, the dull sheen on the pewter jug, and the grainy texture of wood.


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Jean-Baptiste Greuze: The Laundress