Note: Studio of refers to a work of art executed in the studio of the artist, most probably under the artist's supervision, some elements of the composition most probably painted by the artist himself. [see further]
Noted for his portraits, genre scenes, historical, mythological and religious subjects, Navez was born in the city of Charleroi in Belgium. At the young age of 15, he was sent to Brussels to study drawing. He was soon admitted to the Brussels Academy in 1808, in the class of Pierre Joseph Célestin François (1759-1851), a famous Belgian artist and teacher.
In 1812, Navez won the first Grand Prix for painting at the Salon of Ghent. The Beaux Arts Society, created in Belgium during the first Empire, when Belgium was ruled by Napoleon, took Navez under its protective wing and sent the young painter to Paris in 1813, to study in the studio of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). The fall of the Empire in 1814 caused Navez to lose his scholarship. However, he remained in Paris and continued his apprenticeship with David, even following the master in his exile, first to Berlin, then to Brussels in 1816. Restructured, the Beaux Arts Society sponsored Navez' s study travel to Rome, 1817-1821, where he reconnected with his fellow students from his days in Paris in the atelier of David: Jean-Auguste Ingres (1780-1867), François-Marius Granet, Jean-Victor Schnetz (1787-1870) and Léon Cogniet (1794-1880).
Navez returned to Brussels by 1821 and opened a studio which immediately attracted an important following. He became one of the most imminent art teachers known in the history of painting in Belgium. By 1830, he was appointed director of the Brussels Academy.
Overshadowed by the emerging Romanticism, Navez remained faithful until his death to the doctrine and style of Classicism. His reputation as a brilliant and prolific teacher in his private atelier as well as at the Academy, remained unparalleled. Numerous masters of 19th century Belgian art owed the best of their art training to Navez, including Alfred Stevens (1823-1906), Jean Portaels (1818-1895), who eventually became the artist's son in law, Charles de Groux (1825-1870) and Constantin Meunier (1831-1905). The faithful rendering in fresh and vibrant colors of objects, fabrics, accessories, and of the quality of materials used in Navez's œuvre, links him to the tradition of the Flemish Primitives (such as Hans Memling, van Eyck etc.) and as such establishes him as the precursor and starter of the important School of Belgian Realism in the 19th century. The richness of the artist's technique is revealing mainly in his portraits, in the vivacity and nobility of his figures. Art historians of the period and of later periods, as well as contemporary art historians, concur to Navez's predominant importance in the history of Belgian art. Many state that his portraits are the best produced in Belgium during the 19th century.
Navez was one of the very first painters who used life-sized figures in genre paintings. His familiar scenes, marked by a strong Italian inspiration -- of which this painting is a prime example -- are marked by uniting fine
finishing to expressiveness, creating a direct effect of charm due, as in this particular painting, to the portrayal of a local costume.
The woman portrayed in this painting appears in numerous compositions by Navez throughout his career. She obviously was one of the master's favorite models. Some poets might say that Navez certainly succeeded in making her ageless, like the Mona Lisa and the Raphael Madonnas.
Navez's works are part of the permanent collections of numerous museums, including in Belgium the Brussels (with 17 works, including an exceptional portrait of the painter Louis David), Antwerp, Ghent, Liège, Charleroi, Mons Museums of Fine Arts, the Mechelen St Catherine Church, the Brussels St Gudule Cathedral and abroad, in the Amsterdam, Berlin, and Munich Museums of Fine Art.
A member of the prestigious Belgian Royal Academy, Navez received during his lifetime the highest awards and distinctions from the Belgian, French and Dutch governments.
(Researched and compiled by Michel G. Delhaise, © Jordan-Delhaise Gallery, Ltd.)