Salles-Wagner was particularly intrigued with idealized scenes of Italian peasants and often painted young women, such as the one in this portrait, engaged in daily chores or simply reclining in reverie. Demure and peaceful, the young woman ofis a lovely subject from the artist’s oeuvre. This work is also a particularly beautiful blend of realism and neo-classicism. The woman’s pose is reminiscent of a coy Venus sculpture, while her surroundings reference Greco-Roman and Italianate architecture. Her placement in this quiet alcove heightens the serenity and intimate nature of this scene. Salles-Wagner’s palette in The Young Mother is similarly inspired, as the inclusion of a rich blue swathe of fabric serves to contrast with the woman’s milky skin and the eponymous bouquet of pale flowers serves to feminize the subject further.
Jules Salles-Wagner was first a student of Numa Boucoiran at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Nimes, then of Paul Delaroche at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He enhanced this formal education by visiting museums in Venice, Rome, and Naples, a destination to which he often returned. Salles-Wagner was primarily a neoclassical genre and portrait painter. His paintings show the influence of the great French artist Ingres and often reference Raphael. He married the painter Adelaide Wagner around 1865 and added the last name of his wife to his own. An admirer of the more proven talent of his wife, Salles-Wagner sought to further his own artistic career as well as foster hers. To this effect, the couple entered into the competitive Parisian art world, living for a time in an old apartment atelier of Edouard Detaille. As a widower in l890, Salles-Wagner left Paris and returned to Nimes, where he bequeathed to a local museum nearly 100 of his wife’s paintings and watercolors as well as many of his own. Having always taken a part in the cultural life of his city, Salles-Wagner created a successful gallery in his name in 1894. Almost 100 years later (in 1983) le Musee de Nimes organized a complete retrospective of Salles-Wagner’s work, including sketches, watercolors, and oil paintings.
Museum Collections Include:
Musee de Bagnols, France; Musee de Carpentras, France; Musee de Nimes, France; Musee de La Rochelle, France