|Children Playing with a LambSwiss, 1840|
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The painter Barthélemy Menn (1815-1893) was born in Geneva where he studied with some of the greatest Swiss and French painters of the Nineteenth Century. Menn later studied with the famed Ingres and followed him in Rome where he produced portraits and landscapes similar in style to those of the school of Barbizon.
This 1840 painting, “Children Playing with a Lamb,” is a great example of Menn's transitional style when he ceased historical painting in favor of a freer approach based on natural themes.
The genre scene depicts two women and two children playing with a lamb, which may be understood as a symbolic representation of the traditional image of Mary and Anne with the Infants Jesus and St John the Baptist.
This painting was part of the collection of Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend whom we know largely for his important collection of jewels. The work was listed in the 1868 post-mortem register of the contents of his villa in Lausanne as “Oil on millboard. Children playing with a Lamb. By B. Menn. In frame. Signed. Swiss. Present century.” It was bequeathed by Townshend to the V&A in 1868.