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Oil painting - Les Femmes Savantes

Les Femmes Savantes

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    London (painted)

  • Date:

    1845 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Leslie, Charles Robert (R.A.), born 1794 - died 1859 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas, with carved wood and composition frame

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case WN

Object Type
Oil paintings such as this with subjects taken from popular literature steadily replaced commissions for history paintings in the early 19th century. The public and most collectors of modern works started to prefer lighter and sometimes more sentimental themes.

Subjects Depicted
Leslie frequently used themes from humorous literature. Here he is illustrating a scene from a play by Molière, Les Femmes Savantes ('The Learned Ladies'), in which the conceited Trissotin reads a pretentious sonnet of his own composition to his admiring audience of literary ladies, the self-styled 'learned ladies' of the title. When this picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1845, it was called A Scene from Molière and several lines from the play were quoted in the catalogue.

Although Leslie began his career as a history and portrait painter, he soon turned to literary themes. The collector John Sheepshanks (1787-1863) owned 17 paintings by Leslie with subjects taken from well-known authors such as Shakespeare, Chaucer and Molière.

Physical description

Oil painting depicting Trissotin reading his sonnet.

Place of Origin

London (painted)


1845 (made)


Leslie, Charles Robert (R.A.), born 1794 - died 1859 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas, with carved wood and composition frame


Height: 99 cm, Width: 76.1 cm, Height: 136 cm framed, Width: 105 cm framed

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857. Painted in London by Charles Robert Leslie RA (born in London, 1794, died there in 1859); frame maker unidentified

Descriptive line

Oil painting by Charles Robert Leslie depicting a scene from a play by Molière, Les Femmes Savantes, namely Trissotin reading his sonnet (Act III, Scene 2). Great Britain, 1845.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 166-67

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This shows a scene from a French play first performed in 1672. The frame was carved with motifs that came into fashion only in 1700. Mixing of historic styles was an accepted part of 19th century French Style. [27/03/2003]


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted



British Galleries; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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