The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Le devoir maternel (Maternal Duty)
  • Nicholas-Bernard Lépicié (1735 - 1784)
  • Le devoir maternel (Maternal Duty)
  • France
  • c. 1774 - 1779
  • Painting
  • Oil on oak panel
  • Image size: 13.8 x 10.2 cm
  • Signature: 'Lépicié'
  • P464
  • Boudoir
Further Reading
  • This painting of a mother feeding her baby is based on a lost painting 'Menage des bonnes gens' (The Household of Good-Hearted People) showing father, mother and child around the dinner table. It is combined with a painting of a woman teaching his granddaughter to read, based on a group from a painting shown at the Salon of 1775 that was engraved by Jacques-Philippe Le Bas under the title 'L'Atelier du menusier' (The Carpenter's Workshop; c. 64 x 81 cm; untraced). The two pendants in the Wallace Collection were probably painted for Le Bas who engraved them under the titles 'Le devoir maternel' (Maternal Duty) and 'L'education commencée' (Education Begun).
    Both larger scenes were part of a group of genre paintings by Lépicié promoting new, middle-class family values that had first featured in painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuze some years earlier. From Greuze's paintings these ideas quickly reached the mainstream of French painting and literature. Lépicié put a particular focus on the female roles in his paintings. The two smaller paintings by Lépicié in the Wallace Collection isolate groups that had formerly been associated with religious scenes of the Madonna and Child and of St Anne teaching the Virgin.