Ary SCHEFFER (1795-1858), workshop of
Mignon regretting his homeland
Mignon aspiring to heaven
Two oils on canvas in the same frame
44 x 22 cm each
Mignon is a character by Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, by Goethe (1749-1832) written in 1795-1796. Madame de Staël had brought this literary work to the attention of the French public as early as 1810, as she had done for Lenore de Bürger and Faust de Goethe.
Mignon is a young Italian girl, aged 12 to 13, who arrives in Germany with a group of other travelers. For her beloved, she sings the famous tune: "Do you know the land where the lemon tree blooms? », which is an invitation to go and live in Italy, his native country.
Scheffer did not stray from Goethe's text. Mignon is young, shapely, she has long, brown hair, slightly curly. She goes barefoot because Goethe portrayed her as being close to nature.
The artist's daughter, Cornelia (b.1830), posed for the character of Mignon.
Mignon regretting his homeland is very simple: a vast arid landscape, rare vegetation, a cloudless blue sky, a flight of migrating birds, a discreet allusion to Mignon's desire to go to another country. Scheffer exhibited his final version at the Salon of 1836.
A version of the painting is in the Dordrecht Museum
The version shown here is slightly different from the 1836 version, as migratory birds were not present.
Three years after Mignon regretting his homeland, Scheffer painted his counterpart Mignon aspiring to heaven. Mignon has the feeling of his imminent death. Dressed in white, she goes to the garden and rolls her eyes fervently.
The two Mignon paintings were exhibited together at the Salon of 1839. As often the reactions in the press were quite divergent. Barbier criticized the subject which he found too vague for a painting, while Amans, Janin and Mérimée were criticized for anatomy. But praise also abounded and, according to the very popular Musée des Familles, Marguerite and Mignon, Scheffer's "poetic and celestial figures" had even garnered "huge success. "
Before the Salon, the two Mignon were acquired by the Duke of Orleans, who was to designate them in his will as his most beloved paintings.
A few years later, this success still found an echo in the engravings that Aristide Louis exhibited at the Salon of 1844 and which were to constitute one of the greatest commercial successes of the time.
Bibliography: Ary Scheffer by Léo Ewals, Éditions Paris Musées 1996