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European Art
Artist: Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, French, 1758 –1823

Une Famille dans la désolation (A Grief-Stricken Family)


Oil on canvas

unframed: 27 × 21.3 cm (10 5/8 × 8 3/8in.) framed: 38 × 30.7 cm (14 15/16 × 12 1/16in.)
Purchased with the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund and a gift in memory of James Sherman Pitkin

This composition, showing an impoverished family gathered in the murky light of a sparsely furnished garret, was initially conceived by Prud’hon as a collaboration with his pupil and longtime mistress, Constance Mayer. Following her suicide in May 1821, Prud’hon prepared this oil sketch and completed the full-scale version of the painting, now lost, as his final submission to the Salon before his own death little more than a year later. Une famille dans la désolation became the prototype for an entire genre of paintings popular throughout the nineteenth century: melodramatic scenes of the suffering urban poor.

On view
19th century

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon; Charles Boulanger de Boisfremont, Paris, 1821–38; Bequeathed to his daughter, Mme. Power, 1838–64; Carles-Nicolas Odiot 1864–1869; Odiot Collection, March 25, 1869; Justin Courtois, 1869–76; Courtois Collection, March 28, 1876; Frederic Mallet, 1876–1920; Mallet Collection, May 20, 1920; Chrissoveloni collection, 1920–922; Camille Gronkowski, from 1923; Private Collection, to 2005; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Edmond de Goncourt, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, dessiné et gravé de P.P. Prud’hon (Paris: Rapilly, 1876), 10–13.

Petit Palais, Exposition P.-P. Prud’hon : Palais des beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris (Petit-Palais): mai-juin 1922: catalogue., exh. cat. (Paris: Impr. G. Petit, 1922), no. 27.

Arthur Sambon and Joseph Billiet, L’Art français au service de la science française. Exposition d’oeuvres d’art des XVIIIe, XIXe et XXe siécles … du 25 avril au 15 mai 1923 (Paris: Chambre syndic de la Curiositè et des Beaux-Arts, 1923), 13, fig. 32.

J.-J. Guiffrey, L’Oeuvre de P.-P. Prud’hon (Paris: Armand Colin Editeur, 1924), 276–77, no. 746.

Sylvain Laveissière and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, exh. cat. (Paris: Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 1998), 308–09, no. 217, fig. 217b.

Elizabeth E. Guffey, Drawing an elusive line: the art of Pierre-Paul Prud’hon (Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 2001), 228–233, fig. 169.

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 235, 398–99, pl. 223.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.