The Peasant Family
Oil on canvas
Musée du Louvre, Paris
This painting may pay tribute to the charitable work of females. The neatly dressed woman at left, with a younger friend seated at right, has evidently brought food to a poor family’s house. The bread and wine, the only visible food, likely allude to the Eucharist. In seventeenth-century Paris, aristocratic women ran some of the most important charitable organizations in the city, including the Filles de la Charité (Daughters of Charity), who wore bluish-gray habits with white headdresses—virtually the same outfits seen on the two women in the painting. The very large size of the painting suggests that it was commissioned, rather than sold on the open market, likely by someone who belonged to the culture of Catholic charity—if not the Daughters of Charity. The deft use of white highlights to indicate glints of light off glassy surfaces and the handling of the white collars is typical of Louis.
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