The building in this painting has been identified as the Norman church at Arbonne (now Arbonne-le-forêt), a village to the southwest of Barbizon. The village of Barbizon, around 40 miles south of Paris, and the neighbouring forest of Fontainebleau were popular locations for artists, including Jean-François Millet, Corot and several of the Impressionists, from around 1830 to 1870.
Although a preliminary drawing by Jean-François Millet of the view has survived, it is likely that this picture was painted by his son, François Millet. A pupil of his father, François often reproduced his father’s subject matter, such as the pastoral scene with a farm worker wearing a peasant’s traditional blue clothing that we see here. The signature and a written paper fragment on the back of the picture confirms this attribution. X-radiography has revealed another picture underneath, possibly a vertical landscape. This was probably painted by the same artist, who turned the canvas 90 degrees clockwise to create a horizontal format.
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