Farewell to the Wet Nurse

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An elegantly dressed mother takes her child from the woman on the left, who has nursed him from early infancy. Placing babies in the care of hired wet nurses—preferably young women from rural areas, as the painting’s rustic setting suggests—was a common practice among wealthy French families in the eighteenth century. The child’s gesture and anguished expression reflect the affectionate relationship that could result from this arrangement.

Etienne Aubry

French, 1745–1781

Farewell to the Wet Nurse


Oil on canvas

20 7/16 x 24 3/4 in. (51.9 x 62.8 cm)

Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1936




Rand, Richard. Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in 18th-Century France. Exhibition catalogue. Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College; Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.