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Responses to "Young Woman Lying on a Meadow Looking at Swans: A Riddle for NCAW Readers"

Fig. 1, Anonymous, Young Woman Lying on a Meadow Looking at Swans. Oil on canvas. Private Collection, Netherlands.

In our last issue, we posed a riddle: we asked our readers for their opinions regarding the attribution of an anonymous painting descriptively entitled Young Woman Lying on a Meadow Looking at Swans, currently in a private collection in the Netherlands. We mentioned that the painting was publicly shown in 2003 at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, NY as Reclining Woman with Swans and Thistles in the exhibition La Belle Epoque and Toulouse Lautrec. In that exhibition’s catalog, the painting was attributed to the French artist Paul Ranson (1864–1909), but that attribution has been questioned. The current owner acquired the work as “anonymous.”

Two of our readers have responded with brief commentaries. Anne Leonard, Curator and Mellon Program Coordinator at the Smart Museum of the University of Chicago, points to a general resemblance of the painting to Emile Bernard’s Madeleine dans le Bois d’Amour. On the basis of that resemblance, she proposes that the work may have been painted by an artist in the circle of Bernard and Gauguin, and she tentatively suggests Georges Lacombe (1868–1916) as the author of the painting. Gilles Genty, an independent art historian and collector in France, whose contribution follows Leonard’s, suggests that the painting may be the work of the Russian-born artist Jean Peske or Peské (1880–1949). The attribution to Peske was also suggested, by Gloria Groom, David and Mary Winton Green Curator of 19th Century European Painting and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago, in an e-mail of June 22. Though allowing for the possibility of attributions to Paul Ransom (“although the style and subject doesn’t fit with his Nabi period”) and, in a pinch, to Georges de Feure, Groom feels that Peske is the most likely candidate. Meanwhile, Valentino Radman, a Croatian artist and visual arts blogger, in an e-mail of July 18, is of the opinion that the painting has much in common with the work of George de Feure—confirming Groom’s hesitant suggestion.

It is clear that no unanimous agreement has been reached. De Feure, Lacombe, Peske, and Ransom all seem to be in the running, though it appears that Peske may be a favored candidate. If any of our readers has a further suggestion, please let us know your opinion by writing a comment below.

Anne Leonard, Curator and Mellon Program Coordinator at the Smart Museum of the University of Chicago

Gilles Genty, independent art historian and collector