Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's Young girl being studied writing
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Fillette à l'étude, en train d'écrire
(Young girl being studied writing)
c. 1850-60 
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1786-1875) 
Private collection
Oil on panel 
42.5 x 37.5 cm  (16¾ x 14¾ in)
Signed 'Corot' (lower right) 
This painting was in John Singer Sargent's personal collection at the time of his death and subsequently auctioned off.

In his catalogue raisonné, Alfred Robaut recounts how during a visit to the artist's studio in 1874, the present work was given to him by the artist after he had spotted in the atelier. He recounts how having admired the painting on the studio wall, Corot turned to him and said " Alfred, it is yours!" and added "One day when I visit you I will paint from memory the village of this child". (Robaut, loc. cit.). Unfortunately, the artist passed away a few months after this encounter and, thus, never completed the promised landscape. Though recognized mostly for his landscapes, throughout his career Corot actively pursued an interest in the human figure and notably that of the contemplative young woman or child in an interior space. Similar to his landscapes, here Corot infuses the subject with an introspective and poetic dimension.

Robaut suggests that the young girl is from the Limousin, a region in the center of France. Corot, an assiduous traveler to the various regions of France, often worked in the Limousin where he would stay with friends and paint the surroundings of the river Vienne. During his walks in the country, he was captivated by the inhabitants that he encountered, often sketching them and later painting them from memory. Rather than in a country setting, however, the young girl is depicted, quill in hand, sitting at a desk in what appears to be the artists studio judging from the stacks of canvases or drawings in the background. Two alternatives suggest themselves to the viewer: either the young girl, originally from the Limousin, actually posed in the artists studio or else Corot painted her from memory following one of his rural excursions. The painting therefore stands at the crossroads of precise realist observation and artistic license. It conveys a sort of ambiguity which stands at the heart of Corot's practice, adding a unique dimension to works in his oeuvre, hence making them so appealing to the modern viewer.

Throughout the years, Fillette a l'étude has graced the walls of many prominent collections including the Royal family of Yugoslavia. Most interestingly, it was once owned by American ex-patriate painter John Singer Sargent where it was later dispersed at his studio sale at Christie's in London alongside other European and American paintings.

This work has been examined and authenticated by Martin Dieterle. 

A. Robaut, 1874 (gift from the artist).
P.A. Chéramy, 1888.
J. Staats Forbes, London, 1904.
P. Turner, London.
J.S. Sargent; his sale, Christie's, London, 24 and 27 July 1925, lot 27 (to Knoedler for £1260).
Gauthier Collection, 1932.
H.R.H. Prince Paul of Yugoslavia.
Galerie Paul Bolloton, Lausanne.
J. Rohner, Lausanne.
Mrs. Regina Thürlimann, Zurich.
By descent from the above to the late owners, 1957 




    By:  Natasha Wallace
    Copyright 1998-2002 all rights reversed
    Created 10/9/2002