SHEPHERD W & K GALLERIES European Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture
VALLÉE, Marie-Françoise-Caroli   1803 - ?
19th Century
French School

READING FROM “PAUL ET VIRGINIE”, circa 1828

Dimensions: 22” x 27 1/4” (56 x 69 cm)

On verso old paper label, inscribed in ink: Madame Vallée née Deby à / laissé à Georges de Lelée cette / toile peinte par elle d’après sa / sœur Mme Philippine Garnier / ...(indecipherable) de Georges et d’après / Mme Meunier, née Clementine / Rousseau (fille du général baron Rousseau et belle fille du general baron Meunier, du Ier Empire. Also on verso canvas maker’s stamp: A LA PALETTE DE RUBENS / Vve DE ST. MARTIN & FRERE / TOILES & couleurs / tableaux / dorure / RUE DE SEINE, N. 4. On upper stretcher bar inscribed in ink: 1313-7648.
This charming portrait of two young women was probably painted around 1828 by a woman of the bourgeois class who in her time had little opportunity to study at a public institution or to display her skills elsewhere but in the circle of the family. Typically, her models were relatives, and the picture was passed on in the family. Most of what we know about the artist is pieced together from records at the Archives de la Seine:
Caroline Vallée, née Deby, born in 1803, lived at rue de l’Odéon, the daughter of Pierre Nicolas Honoré Deby and Suzanne Jeanne Aubert, owners of a papeterie. Caroline was married in the church of St. Sulpice on December 31, 1825, to Alexandre Vallée, 3 rue Christine, 26 years old, the son of Clément Jacques Vallée and Marie Rose Aubry.
The older one of the two sitters is Caroline Vallée’s sister, Philippine Deby, born 1812 and married December 1834 at St. Sulpice to Louis Adolphe Garnier, 34 years old, son of Jacques Garnier and Anne Adelaide Topino. The younger sitter is Clementine Rousseau, born 1813, daughter of General baron Rousseau.
The mood of the painting is defined by the book’s indistinctly inscribed title, Paul et Virginie. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s beautiful and pathetic tale inspired nmerous painters, sculptors, musicians and illustrators especially in the early decades of the nineteenth’s century. It is the story of two fatherless children, growing up on the Isle of France (Mauritius) in poverty and ignorance. They fall in love, and when a long-forgotten aunt summons Virginia to Paris, she is loath to leave Paul. She does go, however, remaining away for two years. Unable to adjust either to her aunt or to civilization, Virginia returns. A storm sinks her ship and she dies within the sight of Paul, who dies of grief. The nostalgic evocation of a lost paradise and the sumptuous description of nature have assured this work enduring success.
Provenance:
Georges de Lelée.