La Cigale (The Grasshopper)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)
Oil on panel 
18-1/4 x 14-5/8 in. (46.4 x 37.2 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Not on View

At the end of his life, Corot turned to figure paintings, most often portraying women posed with books or musical instruments in imaginary landscapes. Despite its wooded backdrop, this picture was plainly made in the artist’s studio; the curving outline of a chair back, painted over with greenery, is just visible above the model’s shoulder at right. Pictures of women holding musical instruments and titled La Cigale (The Grasshopper) were common in late-nineteenth-century France. Drawn from La Fontaine’s fable The Grasshopper and the Ant, the title alludes to the fate of one who (like a grasshopper) “sings all summer” instead of preparing (like an ant) for the hardships of winter. By Corot’s time, La Cigale had become a metaphor for the beautiful bohème: a performer, a prostitute, a demimondaine, one who lives with no thought for the future.


Robaut says “Vente X, 1877 for Ff 1,200" to;
Victor Desfossés by 1889 (sale, Paris, 26 April 1899, no. 18, for Ff 10,100, to);
[Durand-Ruel et Cie, Paris and New York, sold 5 May 1926 to];
Carl Weeks, Des Moines, Iowa (sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 26 October 1967, lot 18, to);
Mr. and Mrs. Norton Simon, Los Angeles, as part of divorce settlement, 1970, to;
Lucille Ellis Simon, Los Angeles;
[Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York, sold 14 August 1975 to];
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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