In Millet's time, many people considered potatoes unfit food even for animals, but these peasants are planting potatoes for themselves to eat. "Why should the work of a potato planter," wrote Millet, "be less interesting or less noble than any other activity?" Millet gives the harsh reality of their lives beauty and dignity, placing his solidly modelled, harmonious figures before a hazy landscape just beginning to green in the spring sun. The presence of the donkey and the sleeping child under the tree may recall another poor working family, that of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.


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