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Jean-Baptiste Greuze, A Child with an Apple

Key facts
Full title A Child with an Apple
Artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Artist dates 1725 - 1805
Date made late 18th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 40.6 × 32.1 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG1020
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Child with an Apple
Jean-Baptiste Greuze

A little boy or girl leans on a cushion holding an apple. The child is positioned in the extreme foreground of the picture before a dark blank background, the closeness to us creating a sense of immediacy. The intense gaze of the glistening blue eyes and slightly parted lips – which Greuze has painted with great care – give the child an air of thoughtful melancholy, as well as slight unease. This is not a portrait, but a genre painting of a general type. Children shown with apples must have been a popular theme as Greuze painted lots of them. These single heads were quite profitable as they didn't take long to complete.

Such images of children reflect a growing interest in and a changing, more sentimental, perception of childhood in France at this time, with a new fashion for children of wealthy families to be raised by their own mothers rather than servants.

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