The legendary art critic Brian Sewell, who died last September, has bequeathed one of his favourite paintings to the National Gallery.
Maternal Affection, a small oil on copper work from 1773 by the French artist Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, goes on display today in Room 33 alongside works by fellow French painters such as Fragonard, Vernet, and Watteau.
The picture shows a woman nursing a child, with another infant held towards her by one of her female companions. Another woman is placing (or removing) bedding in the form of a pillow in or from a wooden crib. In this picture of quiet contentment Lagrenée has sought balance - balance in the colours of the costumes both of, and between, the individual figures, and balance in composition. Maternal Affection is highly typical of the small-scale paintings that the artist made for private collectors.
There are currently 11 paintings by Lagrenée in Great Britain: seven at Stourhead (National Trust) and four at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle - therefore Maternal Affection is the only one by the artist on public display in a national collection.
Christopher Riopelle, National Gallery Curator of Post-1800 Paintings and Acting Curator of 18-century French painting said: "The painting is a beautifully preserved oil on copper of exquisite refinement which allows the National Gallery for the first time to show the work of an artist who was hugely admired by the most discriminating connoisseurs and collectors of contemporary French art, both French and foreign, in the final decades of the 18th century."
National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi said "Brian Sewell had a profound love for the National Gallery as well as a connoisseur's passion for lesser known masters, so it is especially pleasing that Lagrenée's beautiful and refined Maternal Affection which he owned has come to the Gallery as a gift from his estate."
For more information, visit: www.nationalgallery.org.uk