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Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 'A Girl with a Lamb', before 1775

Key facts
Full title A Girl with a Lamb
Artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Artist dates 1725 - 1805
Date made before 1775
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 54.6 × 44.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mary Mohl, 1884
Inventory number NG1154
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Girl with a Lamb
Jean-Baptiste Greuze

A young girl tenderly holds a lamb, which is decorated with a blue ribbon. Her loose-fitting white chemise has slipped off her shoulder. The girl and lamb occupy the immediate foreground, making them seem close to us and giving the picture a feeling of intimacy.

The lamb here probably symbolises innocence, patience, gentleness and humility. However, Greuze’s painting sends mixed messages as although these qualities are also suggested by the girl’s youth and seemingly innocent gaze, her bare shoulder and provocatively parted lips suggest a certain knowing sensuality.

Greuze’s pictures of young women cuddling pets, implying their ability to feel emotion, relate to the eighteenth-century cult of ’sensibility' or sentiment fostered by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. This painting is unfinished and is not a portrait. Greuze’s single-figure paintings were highly sought-after, relatively quick to produce, and made good money for him.

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