The Angelus (painting)

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The Angelus
French: L'Angelus
JEAN-FRANÇOIS MILLET - El Ángelus (Museo de Orsay, 1857-1859. Óleo sobre lienzo, 55.5 x 66 cm).jpg
Artist Jean-François Millet
Year Between 1857 and 1859
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 55.5 cm × 66 cm (21.9 in × 26 in)
Location Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

The Angelus (L'Angelus) is an oil painting by French painter Jean-François Millet, completed in 1859.

The painting depicts two peasants bowing in a field over a basket of potatoes to say a prayer, the Angelus, that together with the ringing of the bell from the church on the horizon marks the end of a day's work.[1]

Millet was commissioned by the American would-be painter and art collector Thomas Gold Appleton, who never came to collect it. The painting is famous today for driving the prices for artworks of the Barbizon school up to record amounts in the late 19th century.


Millet sold The Angelus after his The Gleaners was sold at the Salon in 1857. About half the size, it brought him less than half the amount he sold The Gleaners for. The Angelus was eventually shown the year before Millet's death in Brussels in 1874, where it was greatly admired by Léon Gambetta.[1]

It shows two peasants during the potato harvest in Barbizon, with a view of the church tower of Chailly-en-Bière. At their feet is a small basket of potatoes, and around them a cart and a pitchfork. Various interpretations of the relationship between the two peasants have been made, such as colleagues at work, husband and wife pair, or (as Gambetta interpreted it) farmer and maidservant. Salvador Dalí insisted that this was a funeral scene, not a prayer ritual and that the couple were portrayed praying and mourning over their dead infant. Although this was an unpopular view, at his insistence the Louvre X-rayed the painting, showing a small coffin over-painted by the basket.


With reference to the Musée d'Orsay, the provenance of the work is as follows; although (until updated) some events are missing, such as the Brussels show in 1874:[2]

  • 1860 – owned by Belgian landscape painter Victor de Papelen [sic, Papeleu] who bought it for 1,000 francs;[3]
  • 1860 – owned by Alfred Stevens, who paid 2,500 fr.;
  • 1860 – owned by Jules Van Praët, Brussels;
  • 1864 – Paul Tesse obtained it by exchanging it for La Grande bergère (Shepherdess and flock) by Millet;[n 1]
  • 1865 – owned by Emile Gavet, Paris;
  • By 1881, collection John William Wilson, avenue Hoche, Paris; his sale at hôtel Drouot, 16 March 1881;
  • 16 March 1881, Eugène Secrétan, a French art collector and copper industrialist who donated copper for the Statue of Liberty, bidding against M. Dofœr, for 168,000 fr., with fees;
  • Secrétan sale (63), 1 July 1889, galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris  – bidding war between the Louvre (Antonin Proust) and the American Art Association; James F. Sutton drives the sale price to 553,000 francs;
  • 1889-1890, collection American Art Association, New York; sale 1890 to the Paris collector and philanthropist, Hippolyte François Alfred Chauchard (1821-1909), for 750,000 fr.;
  • 1890-1909, collection Alfred Chauchard;
  • 1909: Chauchard bequest of 1906 to the French State; formally accepted 15 January 1910 into the permanent collection of the musée du Louvre, Paris;
  • 1986 – transferred to the permanent collection of musée d'Orsay, Paris.


A month after the Secretan sale, The Gleaners was sold for 300,000 francs, and the contrast between the auction prices of Millet's paintings on the art market and the value of Millet's estate for his surviving family led to the droit de suite (French for "right to follow"), a French law that compensates artists or their heirs when artworks are resold.

The imagery of The Angelus with peasants praying was a popular sentimental 19th-century religious subject. Generations later, Salvador Dalí had seen a reproduction of it on the wall of his childhood school and claimed to have been spooked by the painting. He felt the basket looked like the coffin of a child and the woman looked like a praying mantis. He was inspired to create his paranoiac-critical paintings The Architectural Angelus of Millet and Gala and the Angelus of Millet Preceding the Imminent Arrival of the Conical Anamorphoses in 1933. These were followed two years later by a similar pair of paintings which included a partial reproduction of Millet's The Angelus, called The Angelus of Gala and Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus. In 1938, he published a book Le Mythe tragique de l'Angélus de Millet.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Foley, Susan. "A Great and Noble Painting": Léon Gambetta and the Visual Arts in the French Third Republic (PDF format).
  2. ^ record for nr. RF 1877 of the Musée d'Orsay website.
  3. ^ France Embraces Millet on Mutual art;
  4. ^ Le Mythe tragique de l'Angélus de Millet, by Jean-Jacques Pauvert with plates by Salvador Dalí, 1963, ISBN 2844854184.


  1. ^ The Shepherdess and flock is also in the Musée d'Orsay's collection, nr. RF 1879;

External links[edit]