Nicolas Lancret (Paris, France, 22nd January 1690 – Paris, France, 14th September 1743)
I have previously introduced you to Nicolas Lancret, the master of fêtes galantes and a painter beloved of some most illustrious clients. It is my pleasure to revisit the work of Lancret today, on the anniversary of his death, to take a closer look at one of his more cheeky works of art, A Girl in a Kitchen, painted in the 1720s.
In fact, this work is not entirely that of the French artist but owes its evocative kitchen scene to another, unknown artist, for the interior existed long before Lancret added the figure we see before us. The interior is the work of a Dutch artist whose identity has been lost to time. Lancret took this painting and decided what it really needed was a flash of flesh so, with this in mind, he painted in a girl to the right hand side and enhanced the still life beside her.
In her partially unlaced corset, the young lady is examining herself for fleas, a necessary evil in the 18th century kitchen! However, practical though the activity may be, Lancret's intention was not to show a scene of domestic life but rather to add a little titillation to the previously somber canvas. The girl's breast is partially exposed and she is touching her own bosom, no doubt to the delight of any onlookers who had the fortune to admire the painting.
The Wallace Collection's investigations into this painting have shown that the girl was painted in over the top of a small dog who was previously to be seen examining some food that sat on the seat of the chair. The dog and food are long gone, a little Georgian sauce added in their place!