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Louis Jean François Lagrenée, 'Maternal Affection', 1775

Key facts
Full title Maternal Affection
Artist Louis Jean François Lagrenée
Artist dates 1725 - 1805
Date made 1775
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 43.5 × 34.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit A gift from the Estate of Brian Sewell, 2016
Inventory number NG6663
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Maternal Affection
Louis Jean François Lagrenée

In this exquisite small painting on copper, three women are looking after two infants in a grand neoclassical setting. One woman breastfeeds an infant, while another holds up a second baby for a kiss. A woman to the left is busy arranging bedding in a wooden cradle. The open loggia and warm light suggest that the scene takes place in a southern climate. To an eighteenth-century audience, the women’s clothing would have been understood as antique Roman dress.

The painting shares similarities with a series of eight paintings by Lagrenée at Stourhead in Wiltshire. It may be Lagrenée’s painting formerly at Stourhead, described as ‘Maternal Affection – a beautiful group’. The subject was of special interest for a contemporary audience as motherhood, and particularly the practice of breastfeeding one’s own children rather than sending them out to a wet nurse, was much discussed in both France and England at the time.

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