Bonnat is said to have studied this peasant woman and child from life while he was in Egypt for the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal in 1869. The painting was praised at the Paris Salon the following year and again when it was first exhibited in New York in 1876. When Catharine Lorillard Wolfe bequeathed the picture to the Metropolitan it was deemed "a true and vital portrait of two clearly realized individuals [with] a wonderful dignity, sobriety, strength, and beauty."
There is a full-length oil study for this painting in the Musée Bonnat, Bayonne.
Inscription: Signed (lower left): Ln Bonnat
John Wolfe, New York (by 1876–82; his sale, Leavitt's [Chickering Hall], New York, April 5–6, 1882, no. 95, as "Fallah Woman with Sleeping Child," for $6,000 to Wolfe); his cousin, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, New York (1882–d.1887)
Paris. Salon. May 1–June 20, 1870, no. 298 (as "Femme féllah et son enfant").
New York. National Academy of Design and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "New York Centennial Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Selected from the Private Art Galleries," 1876, no. 199 (as "Egyptian Fellah Woman with Sleeping Child," lent by Mr. John Wolfe).
Claremont, Calif. Pomona College Gallery. "Muse or Ego: Salon and Independent Artists of the 1880's," April 16–May 12, 1963, no. 8 (as "Egyptian Fellah Woman and Child").
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse: European Painters in North Africa and the Near East," March 24–May 27, 1984, no. 6.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse: European Painters in North Africa and the Near East," July 1–October 28, 1984, no. 6.
René Ménard. "Le Salon de 1870 (2e et dernier article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 4 (July 1870), p. 39.
Elie Sorin. Le Salon de 1870: Peinture et sculpture. Angers, 1870, p. 8 [reprinted in "Revue historique, littéraire et archéologique de l'Anjou," 4ème sér, vol. 7 (1872), p. 32].
Marius Chaumelin. "Salon de 1870." La Presse (June 27, 1870), p. 1, comments that the figures appear almost too sculptural.
Karl Bertrand. "Salon de 1870: Peinture." L'Artiste (June 1870), p. 308, as "Femme fellah".
Théophile Gautier. "Salon de 1870." Journal officiel (July 18, 1870) [excerpt reprinted in Ref. Vento 1888, p. 65].
[Jules] Castagnary. "Salon de 1870 (Cinquième article)." Le Siècle (May 23, 1870), p. 1.
Aldine 7 (August 1, 1875), ill. on cover (engraving after the painting by T. Cole), as "A Mother of Egypt".
J. B. F. W. "First Steps." Aldine 9 (December 1, 1878), p. 195.
Edward Strahan [Earl Shinn], ed. The Art Treasures of America. Philadelphia, , vol. 1, pp. 54–55, calls it "Fellah Woman" and dates it 1870; notes that it was studied from life while Bonnat attended the opening of the Suez Canal.
Cicerone. "American Art Galleries: Collection of Mr. John Wolfe." Art Amateur (June 1880), p. 5, calls it "Fellah Woman" and considers it "probably the finest specimen known to private collections".
Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Note Book." Art Amateur 6 (April 1882), p. 93.
Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Note Book." Art Amateur 6 (May 1882), p. 115, notes that it sold for $6,000 to Catharine L. Wolfe "after spirited competition" at John Wolfe's sale.
Saint-Juirs inGrands peintres français et étrangers. Vol. 2, Paris, 1886, p. 270, as "Femme fellah et son enfant".
"The Wolfe Pictures." New York Times (November 7, 1887), p. 4.
"The Fine Arts: Recent Gifts to the Metropolitan Museum." Critic (April 16, 1887), p. 194, as "Fellah Woman and Child".
Mrs. Schuyler van Rensselaer. "The Wolfe Collection at the Metropolitan Museum. II." Independent 39 (November 24, 1887), p. 9, [erroneously] recalls seeing this picture at the Salon of 1868.
"Gallery and Studio: The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Art Amateur 18 (December 1887), p. 7.
Clarence Cook. Art and Artists of Our Time. New York, 1888, vol. 1, p. 172, as "A Fellah Woman and her Child".
Claude Vento (Violette). Les Peintres de la femme. Paris, 1888, p. 65, as "Une Femme Fellah et son enfant".
Walter Rowlands. "The Miss Wolfe Collection." Art Journal, n.s., (January 1889), p. 14.
Sophia Antoinette Walker. "Fine Arts: The Painting Master in the Wolfe Collection." Independent 46 (August 2, 1894), p. 12.
"The Metropolitan Museum of Art—The French Painters." New York Times (May 22, 1895), p. 4.
William Sharp. "The Art Treasures of America (Concluded.)." Living Age, 7th ser., 1 (December 3, 1898), p. 604, refers to it as one of Bonnat's "studies of Egyptian fellaheen".
Arthur Hoeber. The Treasures of The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. New York, 1899, p. 82, as "Egyptian Fellah Woman and Child".
W. C. Brownell. French Art: Classic and Contemporary Painting and Sculpture. New York, 1901, p. 111.
D[aniel]. Cady Eaton. A Handbook of Modern French Painting. New York, 1909, p. 271, remarks that it had tremendous success at the Salon of 1870.
Léonce Bénédite. "Léon Bonnat (1833–1922)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 7 (January 1923), p. 9, erroneously locates this picture in the Musée de Bayonne.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 187–88, ill., note that in 1869 Bonnat was in Egypt, where he made studies from life, including a sketch for this picture (Musée Bonnat, Bayonne); remark that "it is one of the last subject pictures Bonnat made before devoting himself entirely to portraits".
Eric M. Zafran. French Salon Paintings from Southern Collections. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 1982, p. 136, under no. 48, compares it to Lecomte-Vernet's painting "Fellah Woman Carrying Her Child, Egypt" (1872; collection Stuart Pivar).
Jane Munro inThe Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse, The Allure of North Africa and the Near East. Ed. Mary Anne Stevens. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1984, p. 118, no. 6, ill. [British edition, "The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse: European Painters in North Africa and the Near East," London, 1984, same pagination], dates it 1870; states that it is one of Bonnat's first Orientalist paintings; mentions the influence of Velázquez and Michelangelo, noting that this picture "technically reflects little of the impact of Bonnat's eastern travels in 1868–69"; observes that the pose of the figures recalls Bonnat's "Ascension of the Virgin" (1868; St. André, Bayonne) as well as predicts Gauguin's "Ia Orana Maria (Hail Mary)" (MMA 51.112.2).
Rebecca A. Rabinow. "Catharine Lorillard Wolfe: The First Woman Benefactor of the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 147 (March 1998), pp. 53, 55 n. 38, states that Wolfe purchased this painting for $6,000 from the second sale of John Wolfe's collection.
Vincent Ducourau. Musée Bonnat, Bayonne. Paris, 2004, p. 50, calls the version in the Musée Bonnat an enlarged replica of our picture [see Ref. Sterling and Salinger 1966]; notes the influence of Raphael's "Sistine Madonna" (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden) on this composition.