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The Knitting Lesson

Jean-François Millet, French, 1814–1875
Oil on canvas
Made in
Western Europe, France, Europe
Current Location
Not on view
39 7/8 x 32 3/4 in. (101.3 x 83.2 cm)
framed: 49 1/2 in. x 42 in. x 5 1/8 in. (125.7 x 106.7 x 13 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
This painting depicts a tender moment as a peasant mother teaches her daughter to knit. The girl is absorbed in her work on a sock, using four needles and a ball of white yarn. The ability to make and mend clothing was an important skill for women within rural communities. Millet’s painting was inspired by study of his wife, Catherine Lemaire, and one of his six daughters. This painting was shown at the 1869 Salon, the annual French state-sponsored art exhibition, where it attracted praise for its sensitive portrayal.
1869 -
Alfred Stevens (1823-1906), purchased from the artist [1]

- 1872
Ferdinand Bischoffsheim, purchased from Alfred Stevens

1872 -
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, France, purchased from Ferdinand Bischoffsheim [2]

Comte de Camondo, Paris, France, purchased from Galerie Durand-Ruel

- 1880
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, NY, USA

1880 - 1934
Levi Z. Leiter (1834-1904), Chicago, IL; Washington D.C., purchased from M. Knoedler & Co., Inc.; Colin Leiter Campbell, Goleta, CA, by inheritance; Mary Campbell Clarke, Hawkhurst, Kent, England, by inheritance; Audrey Nancy Campbell, Chicago, IL, by inheritance [3]

1934/01/18 -
Sold to an unknown buyer at auction "Fine Paintings from the collection of the late Levi Z. Leiter," American Art Association, Anderson Galleries Inc., New York, January 18, 1934, lot no. 55

L. M. Flesh, Ohio

E. D. Lueder [4]

1934 - 1939
John Levy Galleries, New York, NY [5]

1939 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from John Levy Galleries [6]

The main source for this provenance is Herbert's 1976 publication on Millet, cat. no. 169 [Herbert, Robert L. "Jean François-Millet." Paris: Grand Palais; London: Hayward Gallery; London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1976]. Exceptions and other supporting documents are noted.

[1] The Belgian artist Alfred Stevens bought the work from the artist before the 1869 Salon for which it had been painted. The painting was indeed included in the 1869 Salon, titled "La leçon de tricot" ["Paris Salon de 1869." Paris, France, 1869, no. 1718].

[2] Durand-Ruel bought the painting in 1872 from Bischoffsheim and agreed to Millet's desire to retouch it. Durand-Ruel later sold the painting to the Comte de Camondo [Venturi, Lionello. "Les Archives de l'impressionnisme. Lettres de Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley et autres. Mémoires de Paul Durand-Ruel. Documents." Paris and New York: Durand-Ruel, 1939, p. 188].

[3] Levi Z. Leiter was one of Chicago's early dry good entrepreneurs, who, later with his partner Marshall Field, started a department store called Field & Leiter. In 1881 Leiter retired from the business and moved to Washington D.C. After he died, the painting remained in the possession of his heirs, until sold at Anderson Galleries on January 18, 1934. The accompanying auction catalogue lists the names of Leiter's heirs and indicates that Levi Z. Leiter had purchased the painting from Knoedler's in 1880.

[4] On the bill of sale dated November 15, 1939, from the John Levy Galleries, E. D. Lueder is listed as the owner after Levi Z. Leiter [SLAM document files]. L. M. Flesh, who is listed in Herbert's 1976 publication, is not included in the provenance on the bill of sale.

[5] John Levy Galleries lent the painting for an exhibition at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in October 1934 ["State and County Fairs Set New Standard in Art Exhibitions." "The Art Digest" IX/1 (October 1, 1934): 7].

[6] Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, November 2, 1939.
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