Death and the Maidens

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Puvis's painting shows maidens gathering flowers and frolicking in a meadow. Some seem carefree while others are more contemplative, though none of them seems to have noticed the figure of the Grim Reaper, sleeping in the lower left of the composition. Meditations on mortality like this one were popular at the time. Puvis’s treatment of the subject—with its vertical composition and muted palette—differentiate this painting from other variations on the theme.


[Durand-Ruel, Paris, by 1873]; Catholina Lambert, Paterson, New Jersey (by 1894); [Scott & Fowles, New York]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, sold to Hill, 1912]; James J. Hill, Saint Paul (1912–possibly until d. 1916);¹ [Knoedler, New York, sold to Clark, 29 Nov. 1918]; Robert Sterling Clark (1918–55); Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.

1. Hill died intestate; his collection of 83 paintings was inherited by his widow and their children and divided among them. Hill’s papers held at the Minnesota Historical Society do not mention this painting among works included in the division of the estate, however, suggesting that he may have sold it prior to his death. See correspondence in the curatorial files.

Pierre Puvis De Chavannes

French, 1824–1898

Death and the Maidens


Oil on canvas

57 5/8 x 46 1/8 in. (146.4 x 117.2 cm) Frame: 69 3/8 x 53 7/8 x 3 in. (176.2 x 136.8 x 7.6 cm)

Acquired by Sterling Clark, 1918