(b. 1756, Niort, d. 1829, Paris)

Lady Reading the Letters of Heloise and Abélard

Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm
Art Institute, Chicago

For most eighteenth-century critics (e.g. Jean-Jacques Rousseau), novel reading by proper young women was to be discouraged. The dangers of reading are explicit in Bernard d'Agesci's painting: it is a stark testament to the erotic wantonness brought on by the novel, which in this case is slipping from her fingers in her distraction.

Until 2001 the painting was attributed to Greuze.

Inscribed: HELOISE, ABEL (on the leaves of the open book); LART / DAIME / DE / BERNA (on the spine of the closed book).