La Blanchisseuse (1863)

Daumier, Honoré (1808-1879)

La Blanchisseuse (The Laundress)
Oil on oak, 48.9 x 33 cm
Metropolitan Museum of ArtNew York

This painting depicts a subject visible from Daumier’s studio on the quai d’Anjou in Paris: laundresses returning from laundry boats moored on the Seine. Despite the weight of her bulky load, the woman tenderly extends her hand to help a child up the steps of the embankment. With her sturdy form silhouetted against a bright background, the humble worker acquires a certain monumentality. This picture is the largest and possibly the last of three painted versions of the composition; Daumier’s pigments have deteriorated, obscuring the last digit of the date inscribed at the lower left, but in 1893 it was recorded as 1863. (MET)