Jean Francois Millet eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 69 pages of information about Jean Francois Millet.

The chill of nightfall is beginning to be felt, and the shepherdess wears a hood and cape.  Her face shows her to be a dreamer.  These long days in the open air give her many visions to dream of.  Her companionship with dumb creatures makes her more thoughtful, perhaps, than many girls of her age.

As a good shepherdess she knows her sheep well enough to call them all by name.  From their soft wool was woven her warm cape and hood, and there is a genuine friendship between flock and mistress.  When she goes before them, they follow her, for they know her voice.

Among the traditions dear to the hearts of the French people is one of a saintly young shepherdess of Nanterre, known as Ste. Genevieve.  Like the shepherdess of our picture, she was a dreamer, and her strange visions and wonderful sanctity set her apart from childhood for a great destiny.  She grew up to be the saviour of Paris, and to-day her name is honored in a fine church dedicated to her memory.  It was the crowning honor of Millet’s life that he was commissioned to paint on the walls of this church scenes from the life of Ste. Genevieve.  He did not live to do the work, but one cannot help believing that his ideals of the maiden of Nanterre must have taken some such shape as this picture of the Shepherdess.

In the painting from which our illustration is reproduced, the colors are rich and glowing.  The girl’s dress is blue and her cap a bright red.  The light shining on her cloak turns it a rich golden brown.  Earth and sky are glorified by the beautiful sunset light.

As we look across the plain, the earth seems to stretch away on every side into infinite distance.  We are carried out of ourselves into the boundless liberty of God’s great world.  “The still small voice of the level twilight” speaks to us out of the “calm and luminous distance.”

Ruskin has sought to explain the strange attractive power which luminous space has for us.  “There is one thing that it has, or suggests,” he says, “which no other object of sight suggests in equal degree, and that is,—­Infinity.  It is of all visible things the least material, the least finite, the farthest withdrawn from the earth prison-house, the most typical of the nature of God, the most suggestive of the glory of his dwelling place."[2]

[Footnote 1:  Like the watchdog described in Longfellow’s Evangeline, Part II.]

[Footnote 2:  In Modern Painters, in chapter on “Infinity,” from which also the other quotations are drawn.]



In walking through a French village, we get as little idea of the home life of the people as if we were in a large town or city.  The houses usually border directly upon the street, and the spaces between are closed with high walls, shutting in the thoroughfare as completely as in a city “block.”  Behind these barriers each family carries on its domestic affairs in the privacy of its own domain.  The cour, or dooryard, is the enclosure adjoining the house, and is surrounded on all sides by buildings or walls.  Beyond this the more prosperous have also a garden or orchard, likewise surrounded by high walls.

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Jean Francois Millet from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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