The Pastoral Life of Saint Geneviève

Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes (French, 1824-1898)
Oil on canvas, triptych 
Left (Panel A): 53 x 32-1/4 in. (134.6 x 81.9 cm), Center (Panel B): 53 x 35-1/8 in. (134.6 x 89.2 cm), Right (Panel C): 52-3/4 x 32-1/4 (134 x 81.9 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Not on View

An officially sanctioned and commercially successful artist of the late nineteenth century, Puvis de Chavannes nonetheless inspired admiration among the radical artists of the Nabi generation—particularly Denis, Bonnard, and Vuillard. This triptych revisits at reduced scale an enormous mural he painted between 1874 and 1879 at the Parisian church of Sainte Geneviève (today known as the Panthéon). The scene takes place in fifth-century France; Genevieve, the young girl at the center of the composition, is recognized as the future patron saint of Paris by the bishop Saint Germain of Auxerre. An inscription below tells the story, but the clarity and simplicity of design render this explanation superfluous. Matte as a fresco and bordered, like a tapestry, with leafy garlands, Puvis’s monumental decoration provided inspiration for Vuillard’s large-scale decorative paintings two decades later.


Artist’s studio and estate (Delapalme Inventory).
Catholina Lambert, Patterson (1834-1923), New Jersey (sale, New York, Plaza Hotel, 21-24 February 1916, lot 186, to);
F. von Hellman [for?];
“I. Johns,” (presumably John Quinn)
John Quinn (1870-1924), New York.
Mr. and Mrs. James Byrne, deposited 18 June 1923 with;
[Durand-Ruel, Paris, for sale 14 January 1924 to;]
Art Institute of Chicago, until 1955.
[E. & A. Silberman Galleries, New York].
Huntington Hartford Collection, Gallery of Modern Art, New York; by 1963; sold 30 January 1968 to;
[Hirschl & Adler Galleries Inc., New York; stock no. 5154-A/B/C; offered 15 May 1968 and subsequently sold 10 July 1968 to];
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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