Valenciennes 1819 – Saint Privé 1916
Little Apple Thieves
Watercolor, squared in pencil.
Signed, dated, dedicated h. f. Harpignies Hommage à mademoiselle Rose Maireau 1904 lower center.
330 x 194 mm – 13 x 7 5/8 in.
Dedicated to Rose Maireau, who was the companion of the French landscape painter François Louis Français, the subject of this lovely watercolor drawing proves the artist’s affection to rural scenes. A pupil of Jean Achard in Paris, Harpignies travelled to Italy several time, and particularly with his great friend Corot in 1860. A prolific painter and draughtsman, Harpignies was mainly interested in landscape and became close to the Barbizon painters.
Chased away by the village policeman, a group of kids scatters in the woods; some of them fall down and the stolen apples roll away under their feet. In the 19th century, stealing fruits was a contravention and it was for the local policeman to write a ticket and address a fine to the thief (Hallez-Dalloz, Guide pratique du garde champêtre, Paris, 1863, p. 88). The figure of the village policeman is an ambiguous cliché of the 19th-century French literature: supposed to be the official warrant of order and property in small villages and countryside, he is most of the time presented as a shady figure, often an alcoholic, with a dubious past, careless and corruptible, not fit to assure his role. The theatrical dimension of this tragi-comic figure is well described: swinging his sword as a gesticulating puppet, the officer reminds of the ‘père Zéphirin’, called ‘Bédouin’, the village’s policeman in the famous Guerre des Boutons (published in 1912) in which Louis Pergaud gives an autobiographical account of his youth in rural France of the 1890’s.
Condition report – Perfect condition.