The Boy in the Fox Fur Collar (c.1890)
LATE 19th CENTURY FRENCH SCHOOL
Oil on canvas; signed lower left
In period ebonised and gilt frame
At first glance, it’s not immediately obvious what’s going on here. A little boy sits on a chair in a fur-collared coat, wearing lipstick and mascara. He doesn’t seem the least perturbed. Who would be in a fur collar painted like that.
And then it dawns that the chief agency in this painting is not in it but rather in the wings – or more accurately in fact still on stage – his older sister. The likely scenario is that the children of the house have improvised a theatrical production in what looks very like the attic and that our little boy’s older sibling has provided him with all the trappings of drag including what we can confidently bet is his mother’s fur-collared coat. The little boy has perhaps already made his appearance and seems thoroughly satisfied with how it went.
We can further surmise that the painter of the picture was an invited member of the audience for the production and, being thoroughly taken by the sight of the little boy sitting quietly off stage (a sight that thanks to him the rest of us will enjoy for evermore), has managed – with the promise perhaps of an extra helping of Poire à la Beaujolaise at luncheon – to persuade him to replicate his pose while being painted – a task the little boy carries off with equal coolness.