Musée d'Orsay: Maurice Denis Child with Blue Pants

Maurice Denis
Child with Blue Pants

Child with Blue Pants
Maurice Denis (1870-1943)
Child with Blue Pants
Oil on canvas
H. 52.5; W. 39.2 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay / Gérard Blot)

L'enfant au pantalon bleu [Child with Blue Pants]

This painting portrays Noëlle, the painter's eldest daughter, born 30 June 1896, in the arms of Marthe, Denis' first wife. The painter was very fond of the theme of maternity and he celebrated it on the birth of his first three children, Jean-Paul (1894), Noëlle, then Bernadette (1899).

The scene is notable for its rigorous composition and the subtlety of the colours: a blue palette with, in counterpoint, the grey of the faces, the dull yellow of Marthe's hair, the lemon yellow of the window on the right and of the frame on the wall. In the frame is an engraving after Botticelli's La Vierge à l'Enfant et Saint Jean Baptiste, in the Louvre since 1824, which confers an almost holy atmosphere to this family scene.
Denis, who dedicated some of his work to religious painting, admired Italian Primitive and Renaissance art. He particularly admired Botticelli appreciating the serene harmony and soft lighting. Here he displays his deep Christian commitment and the enduring nature of family values.

Both Realist and Symbolist, intimist and decorative, this painting with its simplified outlines, without depth, is similar to the paintings of his contemporary Vuillard. It is an example of the Nabis' experiments, remaining close to the purity of Primitive art, and rejecting the traditional rules of painting.

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Print