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Oil painting - Study for the four seasons: Spring (Daphnis and Chloe)
  • Study for the four seasons: Spring (Daphnis and Chloe)
    Millet, Jean-François, born 1814 - died 1875
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Study for the four seasons: Spring (Daphnis and Chloe)

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    France (painted)

  • Date:

    Before 1865 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Millet, Jean-François, born 1814 - died 1875 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 81, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case WEST WALL

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) was born in Normandy and first trained with a local portrait painter, Bon Du Mouchel (1807-1846), and later in Cherbourg with Lucien-Théophile Langlois (1803-1845), a pupil of Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835). In Paris, he then entered the atelier of the history painter Paul Delaroche (1797-1856). He first specialised in portraiture and then moved towards the naturalistic style with peasant scenes for which he became best known.

This painting is a preparatory study for the allegory of Spring (The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo), whose definitive version includes the figures of Daphnis and Chloe in the foreground. The present painting depicts a landscape with a seashore in the background, probably inspired by the Normandy coastline Millet particularly favoured. In the foreground is a statue of Pan adorned with wreaths of foliage, which alludes to the mythological subject matter of the definitive version. This is a rare thematic for the painter who is best known for his scenes of the contemporary rural life.

Physical description

Woodland scene on the top of a cliff near the sea; in the foreground is a stone terminal figure hung with wreaths; on the left, in the distance is the seashore, with men launching a boat.

Place of Origin

France (painted)


Before 1865 (painted)


Millet, Jean-François, born 1814 - died 1875 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas


Height: 46 cm estimate, Width: 38 cm estimate, Height: 75 cm frame, Width: 67 frame

Object history note

Probably Millet studio sale, 10-11 May 1875, lot 29, sold for 1,210 francs; Collection Henry Hill, Brighton; sold Christie's London, 25 May 1889, bought Dowdeswell, 12 gns.; Buck & Reid; Constantine Alexander Ionides; bequeathed to the Museum in 1900.

Historical significance: This painting is a preparatory study for an allegory of Spring in The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo (P.1959-0146), dated 1865. This date provides a limit post quem this sketch could not have been made.
The present study shows a landscape with a seashore in the background, probably inspired by the cliff of Gréville near his hometown in Normandy, with in the foreground a statue of Pan adorned with wreaths of flowers and foliage. Compare with the finished version, the main characters Daphnis and Chloe, are missing. Daphnis and Chloe were two young lovers, whose story, a pastoral romance with a happy end, was narrated by the late Greek author Longus (2nd cent. A.D.?).
This is a very rare example of Millet's mythological paintings. Millet is actually best known for his rural scenes which depict 19th-century peasants' daily activities in beautiful landscapes infused with the brilliant light of Normandy's sky. Millet was one of the most authoritative exponents of the Barbizon school, an artistic movement that anticipated the Impressionism and derived somehow from the new interest for realism.

Historical context note

19th-century French art is marked by a succession of movements based on a more or less close relationship with nature. At the beginning of the century, Romantic artists were fascinated by nature they interpreted as a mirror of the mind. They investigated human nature and personality, the folk culture, the national and ethnic origins, the medieval era, the exotic, the remote, the mysterious and the occult. This movement was heralded in France by such painter as Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). In its opposition to academic art and its demand for a modern style Realism continued the aims of the Romantics. They assumed that reality could be perceived without distortion or idealization, and sought after a mean to combine the perception of the individual with objectivity. This reaction in French painting against the Grand Manner is well represented by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who wrote a 'Manifesto of Realism', entitled Le Réalisme published in Paris in 1855. These ideas were challenged by the group of the Barbizon painters, who formed a recognizable school from the early 1830s to the 1870s and developed a free, broad and rough technique. They were mainly concerned by landscape painting and the rendering of light. The works of Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (1807-1876), Jules Dupré (1811-1889), Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), Constant Troyon (1810-1865) and Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) anticipate somehow the plein-air landscapes of the Impressionists.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Study for the four seasons: Spring (Daphnis and Chloe)', Jean-François Millet, before 1865

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

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900 , London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 73-76, cat. no. 165.
Soullié, Ventes ... Millet, 1900, p. 32.
B.S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection. Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London, 1925, p. 43.
R. Pickvance, 'Henry Hill: an untypical Victorian collector' in Apollo, 1962, p. 791.
C.M. Kauffmann, The Barbizon School, London, 1965, p. 19, pl. 15.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Landscape; Terminal figure




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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