Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725 - 1805)
- The Souvenir
- 1787 - 1789
- Oil on canvas
- Image size: 52.2 x 42.3 cm
- Signature: 'Greuze'
- Like many painters, Greuze had produced studies of individual heads as drawings and in oil from early in his career. Some of them were nature studies, others specifically prepared figures in his larger narrative paintings. From the late 1770s, these 'expressive heads' developed into a separate genre, often erotically charged, and into a main field of his activities. Greuze's heads exist in large numbers, and he developed them more systematically after he had fallen out with the Academy. Many of them were executed by studio members, and there are general questions of attribution concerning the group.
Greuze expressed his periods interest in strong emotions and sentiments. Expressive heads had a long tradition in France, starting from the teachings of Charles Lebrun who, in 1668, had proposed to codify the expression of specific passions in an Academy lecture. His teachings were published in 1698. Many of Greuze's heads directly refer to Lebrun's models, others develop expressions independently.
A pet dog was often used to imply fidelity in eighteenth-century painting, although Greuze invests the relationship of mistress and pet with a morbid intensity in keeping with the late eighteenth-century cult of sensibility.