Thursday, 9 June 2016
Jean François Millet (1814–75)
“La Couseuse” [Woman Sewing], c.1855–56
Etching on very thin laid paper
Size: (sheet) 20.5 x 13.9 cm, (plate) 10.5 x 7.4 cm
State: iii (of iii) described by Melot “with plate bevelled down, the vise mark in the lower right effaced.”
Delteil 9.II; Melot 9
The British Museum offers the following description of this print: “Peasant woman seated to left beside window in interior, sewing. Early 1850s? Etching, printed on pale buff paper” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1355021&partId=1&searchText=millet+Woman+sewing&page=1)
Condition: good impression with generous margins. The top edge of the margin has a stain (probably from previous mounting) and there is a spot in the margin below the impression.
I am selling this famous and original etching by Jean François Millet for AU$988 (currently US$741.06/EUR646.94/GBP512.19 at the time of posting this print) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this print by the most famous artist of the Barbizon School, please contact me (email@example.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
There is a special dimension of timelessness underpinning this image. To my eyes it has the quiet stillness of a Vermeer in that the portrayed woman is delicately bathed in soft light from a window as she sits stoically focused on her domestic chore.
This print, along with four others executed from 1855-56 (viz. “Woman Churning”, “The Gleaners” and the two prints that I have listed previously, “Peasant Returning from the Manure Heap” and “The Diggers”), was executed to satisfy the market demands at the time for prints. What makes these prints especially interesting is their marketing.
In my discussion about “The Diggers” I lightly touched upon unease between printers concerning who should print the plates and the supervision that was perceived to be necessary to ensure that unauthorised prints were not made.
Building upon this earlier discussion, I wish to add a few insights about how some dealers wished to proceed with the marketing of these prints.
According to Michel Melot (1980), in “Graphic Art of the Pre-Impressionists”, Millet “simply could not imagine that prints could be commercialized like other works of art” (p. 15). Indeed, Millet was unable to determine what his prints were worth, but was assured by Cadart (one of the pre-eminent publishers in Paris) that the publisher should be entitled to a third commission on sales.
In some ways the marketing of these prints foreshadowed many of the later marketing conventions in terms of limiting the numbers of prints in an edition to make them desirable, cancelling the plates to ensure that further editions were not possible and signing the prints to ensure that only signed prints were “authorised.” These proposed marketing strategies, however, proved impossible as Philippe Burty’s proposal that the edition should be set for only ten subscribers and that the plates should be destroyed afterwards seemed outrageous to Millet. I suspect that Millet could see a “green-eyed monster” in the guise of a dealer giving him advice.