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Louis Jean François Lagrenée, Maternal Affection

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 Room 40
Art route(s) B
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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