Artwork of the Week: October 4, 2021
JEAN-FRANCOIS MILLET (ATTR.), (1814-1875), DELVING (LES BECHEURS), 1860 ca., Etching , 9 3/8 x 13 1/4 in., Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of Mahonri M. Young Estate.
Jean-François Millet (October 4, 1814 – January 20, 1875) painted portraits and commercial signage, but he is best remembered for his romantic engagement with French peasants working and worshipping in the fields of their labor. The Delvers, or Les Bêcheurs, 1855-56, in the MOA collection, unwittingly illustrates the nursery rhyme couplet “Eleven, Twelve, dig and delve.” Depicted are the demands of hard labor, specifically the nearly endless soil that has yet to be spaded and turned. On the left, Millet creates a worker’s still life with a pair of wide brim hats on some folded outerwear, and in relative proximity, our eyes are also drawn to two smoking columns ascending into the clouds. The concept of delving since the 19thcentury now usually suggests a conceptual digging down with intellectual rigor, to potentially leaving no clod, nor insight, unturned.