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“La cigale” (“The Grasshopper”) by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1972, oil on canvas, w1238 x h1867 cm (Unframed). Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Felton Bequest, 2005.

Google Culture Institute: “La cigale” (“The Grasshopper”) by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1972, oil on canvas, w1238 x h1867 cm (Unframed). Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Felton Bequest, 2005.

Photo of Lefebvre’s ‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) as it hangs in the 19th Century European Paintings Gallery, at the The National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia. Photo from 2014, retrieved from the blog Sound Like Wish.
Photo of Lefebvre’s ‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) as it hangs in the 19th Century European Paintings Gallery, at the The National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia. Photo from 2014, retrieved from the blog Sound Like Wish.

The painting is currently on display in the 19th Century European Paintings Gallery of the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia (Accession Number 2005.237). The painting was acquired in 2005 for more than $500,000 from a private collector in Melbourne (see at the Age: “NGV unveils Chloe’s ‘sister’”, Nov. 10, 2005).

‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 01), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.
‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 01), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.
‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 02), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.
‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 02), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.

Over at Google Culture, Dr. Ted Gott offers the following description:

La Cigale was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1872. One of Jules Lefebvre’s classic female nudes, the painting was presented as an allegorical illustration of a famous fable by Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95), ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’. In La Fontaine’s tale, the grasshopper spends the summer singing and playing while making fun of the industrious ant, who lays up stores and prepares his house for the winter. When the cold wind of winter blows, the ant is well prepared while the grasshopper, who has made no provision, begs for the ant’s help. The ant refuses, pointing out that as the grasshopper has sung all summer, she must now dance all winter. The painting was accompanied at the Salon by a line from La Fontaine’s Fable: “Quand la bise fut venue” (“When the cold north wind blows”).

Exhibited at the first Salon following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, and the uprising of the Paris Commune in 1871, it is highly likely that Lefebvre’s painting also contains a thinly veiled critique of the short-sighted political vision of the regime of Emperor Napoleon III. In the wake of the disastrous war, France was virtually left out in the cold politically and economically by the rest of Europe.

‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 03), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.
‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 03), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.
‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 04), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.
‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 04), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.

Reproductions of the painting can also be found at Wikimedia Commons [1] [2] and WikiArt. The site theArtwerx offers a useful comparison of the various painted and printed versions of “La Cigale”, along with a richly referenced description.

‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 05), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.
‘La cigale’ (‘The grasshopper’) (detail 05), Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1872.

Below is a contemporary interpretation of Lefebvre’s painting by Italian artist Marco Battaglini.

‘Victoria's secret’ by Marco Battaglini, 2014, airbrush, digital and acrylic, 80.7 H x 40.9 W x 2.4 in. Retrieved from Saatchi Art.
‘Victoria’s secret’ by Marco Battaglini, 2014, airbrush, digital and acrylic, 80.7 H x 40.9 W x 2.4 in. Retrieved from Saatchi Art.
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