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Title The Temptress
Collection Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle
Artist After Courtin, Jacques François (French painter, 1672-1752)
Previously attributed to after Grimou, Alexis (Swiss painter, 1678-1733)
Previously attributed to Grimou, Alexis (Swiss painter, 1678-1733)
Date Earliest probably about 1730
Date Latest probably about 1780
Description This painting is a copy of Jacques-François Courtin's A Young Woman Stringing Pearls Assisted by an Old Lady (probably from the first half of the eighteenth century). The Bowes Museum title probably comes from the fact that the older woman is seemingly trying to distract the young girl from her delicate task. This painting is very reminiscent of The Celestina story, first published in Spain in1499. In this novel, a young nobleman enlists the services of an old bawd, Celestina, to help him seduce a young girl, Melibea. The pearls, representing purity and harmony, would thus take on a strong meaning.
Current Accession Number B.M.565
Former Accession Number No. 121
Subject figure; everyday life; literature (La Celestina, F. de Rojas)
Measurements 100.0 x 81.5 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by the founders John and Joséphine Bowes 1885.
Provenance Bought from Gogué by Bowes, 30 May 1862, 200 francs. Benjamin Gogué, Rue Childebert, Paris.
Notes This painting was listed as no. 121 in John Bowes' catalogue, as A young Female holding a string of Pearls. An aged Female with spectacles on looking at her. It is attributed to Alexis Grimaud (sic), seventeenth and eighteenth century. The Courtin painting from which this is copied is reproduced in colour in Christie's Important and Fine Old Masters Pictures, London, 5 July 1991, lot 264. The Celestina was written by Fernando de Rojas and first published in 1499. It has become a classic. The name Celestina has become synonymous with procuress - especially an old woman - whose aim is to promote the illegal engagement of a couple. Goya painted at least two scenes representing her: Maja and Celestina (1808-1812, Bartolomé March Collection, Palma de Majorca); and Maja and Celestina (private collection). The story of Celestina would have been known in France, as several translations were published (The catalogue of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France indicates a number of translations dating from before 1850: these were published in 1527, 1529, 1578, 1598, 1634, 1644, 1841 and 1843. Artists therefore would have been able to read the book in French. On the theme of La Celestina and its impact on French culture, see Ysquierdo, J., La Celestina en France (XVIe - XXe siècle): Etude de réception critique et image, Thèse, Sorbonne nouvelle, 1989. One will learn in the tome 1 that in the eighteenth century the translation from 1633 was republished in 1664 and still read. There are also allusions to the name of 'Célestine' in the Contes of the Sieur d'Orville (1644), whilst the Hypocrites (about 1655) by Scarron is a work extrapolated from a translation of an imitation of La Celestina by Salas Barbadille. As well as the Celestina, this picture is also reminiscent of William Hogarth's A Harlot's Progress (1732), showing how an innocent young girl became a prostitute after being lured into it by an older woman. This theme was popular in the eighteenth century, and one may also want to note Restif de la Bretonne's La Paysanne Pervertie, a novel from 1784 telling the story of a peasant girl lured into town. As to the pearls represented on the painting, they could refer to the episode when Celestina says to the young girl, Melibea: 'O angélique image, perle précieuse, comme elle a dit cela!' (La Célestine, F. de Rojas, translated by Florence Delay, Paris, 1989, p. 40.
Rights Owner The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham
Author Dr Maylis Hopewell-Curie



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