Jean-François RAFFAËLLI (Paris, 1850 - 1924)
Portrait of Germaine, the artist's daughter, at the age of 4, 1882
Oil on canvas.
Signed, dated and dedicated in the upper left corner: "to my dear wife J.F. RAFFAËLLI / Germaine 18 March 1882".
49 x 49 cm
- Given by the artist to his wife Rachel Aglaé, née Héran (1849-1924).
- Germaine Chevrier de Beauchesne (1877-1951), née Raffaëlli, model and daughter of the artist. By descent.
Works by Jean-François Raffaëlli, Paris, 28 bis, avenue de l'Opéra, March 15-April 15, 1884, no. 92 ("Germaine, 4 years old. Belongs to Mme R.").
P. Bonnetain, Les Enfants, Les Types de Paris, n° 4, Paris, 1889, reproduced on p. 57.
Raffaëlli, a portraitist, chose his models from among his artistic, literary and political friendships. In contrast to these official images, for his more intimate female representations, the artist adopted a luminous palette, with light tones, which contrasted with the rest of his production. This is the case of our Germaine at the age of four, "so remarkable for the simplicity and accuracy of her tones", for her "supple brushwork" and her "fine and delicate coloring", to quote Charles Ephrussi about the works exhibited by Raffaëlli alongside the Impressionists in 1880 (C. Ephrussi, "Exposition des Artistes Indépendants", in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, May 1880, p. 488) As Arsène Alexandre rightly expressed it, "the grace of the painter's images of young girls" is not without recalling that of his "portraits of flowers" (A. Alexandre, Jean-François Raffaëlli. Peintre Graveur et Sculpteur, Paris, 1909, p. 124). Thus, in a chapter of Professional Beauties, the poet Robert de Montesquiou gives a description of his still lifes that could just as well apply to our portrait: "Raffaëlli's bouquets are exercised on a cold white background that he likes" and "know how to unite without mawkishness distinction to breadth, richness to melancholy" (R. de Montesquiou, Professionnelles beautés, Paris, 1905, p. 110-111). The fluidity and the airy design of the dress and the rattan chair, made of curves and counter-curves, contrast with the finish of the face and give this scene, which is nevertheless static, a dynamism and a movement that is reminiscent of the immediacy of a photograph. This idea is reinforced by a composition with a daring framing: the little girl, seen in profile, only occupies the right-hand side of the painting, giving the impression that she is about to get up to return to her entertainment.
An only child and the painter's favorite model, Germaine grew up to the rhythm of her father's brushes, who never ceased to represent her: Germaine, 4 months old (solo exhibition of 1884); Germaine, 8 months old (solo exhibition of 1884); Germaine, 2 years old (solo exhibition of 1884); Portrait of my Granddaughter (Salon of 1881); Germaine at her toilette (fig. 2); Portrait of Germaine (Salon of 1892); Portrait of my daughter Germaine (Salon of 1896); Portrait of my daughter (Salon of 1898), etc. This series of effigies finds a conclusion in Le Portrait de Mme C. de B. exhibited at the 1905 Salon, a painting in which the informed public did not fail to recognize the young wife of Mr. Chevrier de Beauchesne, the charming Germaine Raffaëlli, now adult. By its modernity and impressionist character, our painting occupies a special place in this long series, and it is certainly one of the artist's most seductive images.