This fantastic painting by French painter Jean Beraud depicts a woman in prayer. Jean Beraud is typically categorized as a Belle Epoque painter. Though the theme and lighting of this painting are grave, Beraud injects a sense of playfulness with the woman’s stance and expression. As the light enters from the upper right corner of the painting to hit her figure and bible, it subtly reveals a smirk on her splendid red lips. By leaning on a backwards-facing chair, this young and jovial woman seems to embody the joie de vivre for which the Belle Epoque is known, simultaneous to her attempts to be devout.
Beraud’s immense talents as a painter are apparent in this substantial painting of 20 ¾ x 13 ½ inches. His use of chiaroscuro implies influence from Italian Masters like Caravaggio from the late 16th century. The diagonal composition created by the figure’s dramatic stanse gives a dynamic feeling to the painting, which helps to contrast with the relatively dark palette.
Beraud does an impressive job subtly including psychological implications in this painting. Perhaps the woman is praying out of societal or familial expectations rather than an inner urge to do so. She seems to be playing with the idea of religion, but remains distracted by other worldly occurrences. To emphasize this point, we see, from the shadows, the face of an older woman deep in prayer. Her rigid posture and intense gaze upon her bible contrast with the young and beautiful lady in the foreground.
This painting will be included in the upcoming Catalogue Raisonné on Jean Beraud’s work, being prepared by Patrick Offensfadt in affiliation with the Wildenstein Foundation. With such a timeless theme, and executed so elegantly, who wouldn’t want to make this painting their own?