Sunday 14 September 2014

Some Fine Georgian Sauce: A Girl in a Kitchen

Nicolas Lancret (Paris, France, 22nd January 1690 – Paris, France, 14th September 1743)

I have previously introduced you to Nicolas Lancret, the master of fĂȘtes 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. 

A Girl in a Kitchen by Nicolas Lancret, 1720s

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!


kneistonie said...

We should consider clues to the context of what is painted.
The broken saucers point to too many missteps.
The fruit and the candle in the otherwise shabby enterprise clearly point to lust.
So this lady has just had a visitor.

With Dutch 17c painting the obvious is only one good look away ;-)

Catherine Curzon said...

Ah, wonderful! I am very much an interested amateur when it comes to art so this is very much appreciated; I wonder if her visitor helped her search for fleas. ;-)

kneistonie said...

It just might be that the girl is putting her breasts in order. I doubt that it is a particularly good moment for fleas to enter this scene.

Anonymous said...

Totally fascinating. It seems that even in 1720 a scantily clad woman was good for business. Saucy indeed. Painted over a dog and checking herself for fleas - it's all so down to earth, isn't it?

Catherine Curzon said...

Wonderfully so; I'm trying to educate myself in the whole *reading paintings* skill, there's so much that I've missed!

p.d.r. lindsay the author said...

Now I know why I always felt uncomfortable about the painting. She's a later add on. She never seemed to fit the sombre background. bring back the dog!

Nice post, thank you.

Catherine Curzon said...

A pleasure; I love your *bring back the dog* plea!

Jonathon Green said...

I can't ascertain the state of the utensil (left, forefront) but I would note that a ‘cracked pitcher’ is a lost virginity; the ‘pitcher’, tout court, is the vagina. Thus The Gentleman’s Bottle-Companion (1768): ‘Here’s to the strange pitcher that water does not hold, / Tho’ downwards the mouth and an hundred years old.’ Not to mention the great Ned Ward's ‘London Bawd’ (around 1725): ‘All sorts of Lasses can I call, From Madam Flirt to Pitcher Moll.’ Finally Thomas D’Urfey, ‘Pills to Purge Melancholy’ (1719): ‘Where Wenches sell Glasses and crackt Earthen-ware; / To shew that the World and the Pleasures it brings, / Are made up of Brittle and Slippery things’

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you so much!