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Gallery Text

Depicting emotions legibly was a fundamental principle of artistic theory and practice since the French Academy’s founding in 1648, and it was famously codified by the painter Charles Le Brun in his illustrated treatise about the passions. Since an artist’s ability to portray emotions was considered essential to the communication of meaning, the academy inaugurated a regular competition for drawing expressive heads, or "têtes d’expression," in 1760. This genre is represented extensively in Greuze’s work, particularly his drawings, which serve as artistic exercises and as preparatory studies for larger compositions. The expression of fright depicted in this panel occurs in at least two other works by the artist, one of which was the painting he exhibited at the Salon of 1800, "Young Woman Frightened by the Storm."

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, French (Tournus 1725 - 1805 Paris)
Other Titles
Title: L'Effroi
Work Type
c. 1800
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on panel
45.8 x 38.1 cm (18 1/16 x 15 in.)
framed: 78 x 70 cm (30 11/16 x 27 9/16 in.)
Sold [commissaire-expert: Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Lebrun, Paris, Germinal 15, an VII (April 4, 1799), lot 120]. Unknown Collector, Belgium, sold [through Hotel Drouot, commissaire-priseur M. Delbergue-Cormont, December 12, 1862, lot 55]. Alexis Joseph Febvre (?-1882) sold; [through his sale Hotel Drouot, commissaire-priseur Paul Chevallier, Paris, April 17-20, 1882, lot 12, sold]; to Baron de Bournonville (1882-1883), sold [through his sale Hotel Drouot, commissaire-priseur Paul Chevallier, Paris, May 21-22, 1883, lot 18]; to [Sedelmeyer, Paris, (1883 - ?)]. Baron d'Erlanger, Leipzig, sold [through Knight, Frank, & Rutley's, London, March 25, 1946, lot 37]. Sold [through Christie's, London, July 8, 1983, lot 41]. Private collector, sold [through Christie's, New York, May 21, 1992, lot 90]; to Vermeer Associates, sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1994
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Richard Norton Memorial Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Catalogue des Tableaux Anciens des Écoles Flamande, Hollandaise, Française, Ialaienne et Espagnole..., auct. cat., Hôtel Drouot and Delebergue-Cormont (Paris, December 12, 1862), p. 19, lot 55

Catalogue des Tableaux Anciens de Premier ordre, Tableaux Modernes, objets d'art et de haute curiosité composant la collection de feu M. A. Febvre, auct. cat., Hôtel Drouot, Paul Chevallier, and Henri LeChat (Paris, April 17, 1882), p. 8, lot 12, repr. (through its engraving)

Catalogue de Tableaux de Maitres Anciens et de Tableaux et Dessins Modernes Appartenant à M. le baron de B...., auct. cat., Hôtel Drouot and Paul Chevallier (Paris, May 21, 1883), p. 14, lot 18, repr.

Jean Martin and Charles Masson, Catalogue Raisonné de l'Œuvre Peint et Dessiné de Jean-Baptiste Greuze, H. Piazza (Paris, 1908), p. 31, no. 450

Pictures, Ivories, Bronzes and Plate, Ornamental China & Glass, auct. cat., Knight, Frank & Rutley (London, March 25, 1946), p. 6, lot 37

Important and Fine Old Master Paintings, auct. cat., Christie's, New York (New York, May 21, 1992), p. 146, lot 90

Exhibition History

32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/14/2018 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

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