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The Pastoral Life of Saint Geneviève, 1879

Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes

French, 1824-1898
Oil on canvas, triptych
Left (Panel A): 53 x 32-1/4 in. (134.6 x 81.9 cm), Center (Panel B): 53 x 35-1/8 in. (134.6 x 89.2 cm), Right (Panel C): 52-3/4 x 32-1/4 (134 x 81.9 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1968.49.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

An officially sanctioned and commercially successful artist of the late nineteenth century, Puvis de Chavannes nonetheless inspired admiration among the radical artists of the Nabi generation—particularly Denis, Bonnard, and Vuillard. This triptych revisits at reduced scale an enormous mural he painted between 1874 and 1879 at the Parisian church of Sainte Geneviève (today known as the Panthéon). The scene takes place in fifth-century France; Genevieve, the young girl at the center of the composition, is recognized as the future patron saint of Paris by the bishop Saint Germain of Auxerre. An inscription below tells the story, but the clarity and simplicity of design render this explanation superfluous. Matte as a fresco and bordered, like a tapestry, with leafy garlands, Puvis’s monumental decoration provided inspiration for Vuillard’s large-scale decorative paintings two decades later.

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