(1815, Paris - 1875, Douarnenez)
The death of a sister of charity
Pastel and black chalk
H. 42 cm; L. 57 cm
Vintage black and gold frame
Related works: painting exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1850 under No. 2475, titled The death of a sister of charity, for part of which our drawing is preparatory - The painting (2.41 x 3.05 m) is kept at the Augustins Museum in Toulouse
Provenance: sale of the Pils workshop, March 20, 1876, Paris, Drouot, lot N ° 417 of the catalog titled La Mère Saint-Prosper sur son de mort, study for The Death of a Sister of Charity
This admirable drawing, with a strong presence and giving off great emotion, which can be compared to the Ex-voto of 1662 by Philippe de Champaigne (Louvre museum), is a study for the painting by Pils du Salon of 1850 , Death of a Sister of Charity, acquired by the State in 1851. The painted sketch of the painting and several studies (oils and two drawings) were presented at the posthumous exhibition of Pils organized at the School of Fine Arts de Paris in 1876. The painted study of the head of Mother Saint-Prosper, lot N ° 418 from the Pils sale, 56 x 45 cm, is kept at the Magnin museum in Dijon.
The theme of the painting was linked to Pils' personal life: it was inspired by the death of Sister Saint-Prosper, from whom he had personally received care during a six-month stay at Saint-Louis hospital in beginning of 1845. Grateful, he had gone, when the nun died on August 30, 1846, to kneel at the foot of the bed where her body was exposed, and he had been touched by the sight of the poor people coming to contemplate one last time that who was a mother to them.
The work was a great public and critical success, noted in particular by Delecluze and the Goncourt brothers, who distinguish it as "one of the best paintings of the last Salon" in number 25 (June 26, 1852) of L'Eclair (weekly review of literature, theaters and the arts).
This painting belongs to Pils' early career, before he (himself as the son of a soldier) definitively devoted himself to the military genre and to great decoration. A pupil of Guillon-Lethière and then of Picot, Pils produced on his return from Italy, where he had spent six years since 1839, several works on religious themes.
He had started at the Salon of 1846 with Christ Preaching in Simon's Barque and The Death of Saint Magdalene, the latter being acquired by the State. In 1850, he also exhibited a Holy Family, and finally The Prayer in the Hospice, at the Salon of 1853 (this painting, also known as The Prayer of the Teignous Children, was offered by the Empress Eugenie to the hospital of sick children, the Sainte-Eugénie hospital which later became the Trousseau hospital; when it was demolished in 1902, the painting was transported to the Saint-Louis hospital and is now kept at the Museum of Public Assistance) . Let us note however a last religious “revival” at the Salon of 1874 with Holy Thursday in Italy, in a Dominican convent.