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La Servante Officieuse

after Jean-Frédéric Schall
Late 18th century

41 x 54 cm

Oil on copper panel

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The painting is a replica of a characteristically charged erotic composition by the French rococo artist Jean-Frédéric Schall. The ‘officious maidservant’ of the title seems at first glance to have been caught in the act of administering a potion to her mistress by enema. However, a closer inspection of the delightfully-rendered expressions of the characters reveals the servant and the voyeur to be in cahoots. The latter peers excitedly through his monocle, while the former reminds him to preserve the secret by raising her finger flirtatiously to her mouth.

The risqué scene is a fine example of Jean-Frédéric Schall’s charming, sentimental style. The beautifully-rendered interior invites the viewer into the bedroom of an eighteenth-century French aristocrat, while its gossipy tone is reminiscent of the more scandalous of the nineteenth-century French feuilletons.

The original version, signed and dated 1785, was formerly in the Louis Deglatigny Collection, Rouen. Its popularity at the time is evidenced by the fact that it was engraved by Alexandre Chaponnier.   

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