Lefebvre was the son of a baker, but showed great promise early on and was sent to the École des Beaux Arts at the age of sixteen. He debuted at the Paris Salon in 1855, and then went on to win the coveted Prix de Rome in 1860, which awarded him a five year scholarship and international recognition. He focused almost entirely on female portraiture and nudes, and mastered them completely, spurring a reviewer of the Salon in 1881 to remark, ‘Jules Lefebvre, better than anyone else caresses, with a brush both delicate and sure, the undulating contour of the feminine form.’ This painting is a study for a larger oil, Diana Chasseresse, [c. 1879] which was in the collection of Thomas Buechner, the former director of the Brooklyn Museum. In it, Diana’s fiery locks have been toned to a strawberry blonde, set against a backdrop of inky night, rather than the ethereal clouds in our picture.
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