GREUZE, Jean-Baptiste
(b. 1725, Tournus, d. 1805, Paris)

The Father's Curse: The Ungrateful Son

Oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

After the failure of his Septimus Severus and Caracalla, Greuze devoted himself to genre painting with moralizing undertones, which he treats with emphasis, rigour and sobriety. In the tradition of the Bible parable of the prodigal son, The Father's Curse first describes a father cursing his son, who neglects the family (of which he is the sole support) to join the army, and in the subsequent scene, the son finding his father dead on his return. Adopting the canons of classical history painting, Greuze employs a frieze composition, a sombre, matte colouring, and eloquent gestures, shunning an over-accurate description of details.