RENOIR, Pierre-Auguste
(b, 1841, Limoges, d. 1919, Cagnes-sur-Mer)

Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary

Oil on canvas, 174 x 102 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Jeanne Samary (1857-1890) was a French actress who also worked as model. She came from a strong musical and theatrical background: her father was a cellist, and two of her maternal aunts, as well as her grandmother, had been actresses.

Renoir became acquainted with the 20-year-old actress Jeanne Samary, who had already made her mark on the Parisian stage, at the home of his patron, Madame Charpentier. This large portrait in a ball dress - one of many Renoir painted - was intended for the 1879 Salon and reflected his pursuit of official recognition.

Jeanne Samary featured in Renoir’s 1876 work The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette and was the main subject of The Swing, also done that summer. At some point around 1877, she became Renoir’s lover, a move commemorated in the The Dreaming Woman (La Reverie). Renoir painted two other portraits of her.