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.
- Artist Name: Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)
- Title: La Cigale (The Grasshopper)
- Date: 1865-1875
- Medium: Oil on panel
- Dimensions: 18-1/4 x 14-5/8 in. (46.4 x 37.2 cm)
- Credit Line: Norton Simon Art Foundation
- Accession Number: M.1975.13.1.P
- Copyright: © Norton Simon Art Foundation
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.
- Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, 1975-08-08 to 1975-12-01
Bernheim de Villers, Corot: Peintre de figures, no. 266
Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, cat. 390 p. 292
The Burlington Magazine, p. 28
New York Times, p. 43
Art at Auction 1967-68, pp. 120-121
Morse, John D., Old Master Paintings in North America, p. 62
Norton, Thomas E., 100 Years of Collecting in America: The Story of Sotheby Parke-Bernet, pp. 186-187
Zimmerman, Antje, Studien zum Figurenbild bei Corot, pl. 47 p. 352
Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, p. 114
Robaut, Alfred, L'Oeuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré, no. 1566
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