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Study for "The Reconciliation" (recto and verso)
On the recto of this double-sided study for The Reconciliation, Greuze arranges all the action for this domestic drama in a frieze-like composition. Figures are splayed parallel across the picture plane. On either side of a relatively empty center, the family divides in two. The father enters from the right led by a young girl to the mother sitting at a table with her head in her hand. The girl reaches out for the mother’s hand. Directly below this gesture, a dog crouches at their feet. Four other children of various ages populate the scene: at the far left, a young girl sits at the table opposite her mother; a young boy near the center pulls on his mother’s arm as he looks over his shoulder at his approaching father; another pokes his head in the doorway at the far right; a toddler leans against the wall, burying his head in his arms presumably distraught by the commotion. The family members’ expressive theatrical gestures and poses convey the atmosphere of tension and despair yet also hint to reconciliation. On the verso of the sheet, Greuze sketched the figure of the central peacemaking girl, the young boy tugging at his mother’s arm here seen from behind, and a quick sketch of the crouching dog. The drawing is signed on the recto “Greuze” in brown ink at the lower left edge.
The finished drawing for these studies is at the Phoenix Art Museum and shows several changes in the final composition. The boy peeking through the door is gone. The dog is now moved to the right side of the composition and the toddler leans over its back. A cat has replaced the dog in the center of the composition below the clasped hands of mother and daughter. The mother, who in the Snite study seems upset, is now leaning toward her daughter across the table with her hand to her ear as if listening to a secret. The father also lifts his hand, but here to shield his face turned away from his wife.
The Reconciliation has a pendant entitled The Angry Wife (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
written by Emma Lyandres, St. Andrews University, Scotland, 2022