Thomas Couture (French, 1815-1879)
Oil on canvas 
21-5/8 x 20-1/2 in. (54.9 x 52.1 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation, from the Estate of Jennifer Jones Simon 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Not on View

This picture is not a portrait likeness but a tête d’expression intended to evoke a particular state of mind. Invented in the seventeenth century, the tête d’expression remained a common academic exercise two hundred years later, when Couture used this study to capture the distinctly modern mental state of an alluring adolescent daydreamer. Though he had earned his reputation with grand historical and religious paintings, the artist here adopted a casual, fluid manner to describe what one critic called the “harmonious disorder” of his model’s hair and clothing, her “ravishing air of melancholy.” Couture’s têtes d’expression inspired more radical works both by his contemporary (and arch-enemy) Gustave Courbet and by his own great pupil, Édouard Manet.


[Boussod, New York, sold 6 November 1890 to];
[M. Knoedler & Co., New York, stock 6646, sold 22 November 1890, as Tête de femme, to];
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. (sale, New York, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 3 May 1979, lot 58, to);
Norton Simon, by bequest to;
Jennifer Jones Simon Art Trust, to;
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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