Unknown Artist (French, 19th century)
Ruth and Boaz
Oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 61 3/4 in.

In an Old Testament story, Ruth requests permission from the wealthy farmer Boaz to gather the pieces of wheat, or gleanings, left behind after the harvest. This image reflects the increasing interest at mid-century in pastoral and rustic themes, in both biblical and contemporary settings. Images of contemporary peasants, such as gleaners, were often imbued with religious or spiritual qualities, since they were thought to be more inherently pious than “sophisticated” urban dwellers. The poses and dramatic gestures here demonstrate knowledge of the kind of figure studies that formed the basis of an academic painter’s training. The man with a scythe seated at the lower left in Ruth and Boaz reflects the complex pose, meticulous modeling, and careful study of anatomy found in a typical nude studio figure study, or académie.