PISSARRO: Portrait of Minette
This touching portrait of Pissarro’s seven-year-old daughter, Jeanne-Rachel (called Minette), one of thousands of paintings seized by the Nazis, is featured in an exhibition, Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art, at the Jewish Museum in New York City until January 9, 2022.
Pissarro made the painting in 1872 and gave it to his dear friends Ludovic Piette and his wife Adele, who were especially close to Camille and his wife Julie. They had visited the Piette family many times at Montfoucault, their farm in Brittany. During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, when Prussian soldiers drew near to their home in Louveciennes, Camille and Julie fled to Montfoucault. At the time, Minette was five and Lucien, their son, was seven. During their three-month stay, another daughter, Adele Emma was born, but died two weeks later.
The Piettes, who had no children, were especially fond of the Pissarro children. Upon receiving the painting, Piette wrote Pissarro, “I come to the little portrait. I didn’t dare speak to you about it. It’s a great pleasure for me to have it: the little girl, the recollection of your stay here, your journey to England, everything…retraced for us; and also the painter’s ragout, those wan, somewhat sickly tones, that transparent skin, that ash blonde hair of the little one, what a feast for the eyes you have made of them: a sketch no doubt, and one that is all the more delightful to me, a [mere] sketcher.”
Minette became ill in the fall of 1873 and died a few months later on April 6. Piette generously returned her portrait to the grieving Pissarro family. The painting was recovered from a Nazi train in August, 1944. It is now in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Conn.
Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, Vol II, p. 223.
New York Post, August 20, 2021