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Like much of Greuze’s early work, The Wool Winder owes something to Chardin’s genre pictures of the 1730s, which in turn recall the Dutch seventeenth-century genre scenes the French were collecting avidly in the early eighteenth century. But Greuze’s pictures are usually, as here, more whimsical and anecdotal, as well as more refined in execution. The letter B carved into the top rail of the chair suggests that the subject may have been a younger sister of the artist’s wife, Anne-Gabrielle Babuti, whom he married in January of 1759. The Wool Winder, exhibited the same year, is related to a series of portraits of his new family that Greuze exhibited in 1759 and 1761 — likenesses of his wife, of her brother, and of her father, in addition to one of himself.

Source: Art in The Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

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