Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz)
Jean-François Millet (French, 1814–1875)
67.3 x 119.7 cm (26 1/2 x 47 1/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
The Beal Gallery (Gallery 251)
Millet conceived this painting as a depiction of the biblical story of Ruth, a poor widow who supported herself by gathering grain left behind by the harvesters. When the artist exhibited this work at the Salon of 1853, however, he changed the title to underscore its contemporary significance. Millet has painted peasants of his own time, and the setting is the fertile plain of Chailly, breadbasket for much of France. In the 1850s rural France was increasingly owned by absentee landlords more interested in personal gain than in the welfare of the people who worked their fields. The gleaner’s meager bundle contrasts poignantly with the stacks of grain behind her, and Millet’s Boaz is not the landowner of the biblical story, but a sharecropper hired to work a rich man’s land. In this, as in so many of his works, Millet urges respect for the hardship and dignity of humble lives.
1853, sold by the artist to Martin Brimmer (b. 1829 - d. 1896), Boston [see note 1]; by descent to his wife, Marianne Timmins Brimmer (b. 1827 - d. 1906), Boston; 1906, bequest of Mrs. Martin Brimmer to the MFA. (Accession Date: November 8, 1906)
 Millet exhibited this painting at the Salon of 1853 (as "Le repos des Moissonneurs"), where Mr. Brimmer purchased it. See E. Durand-Gréville, "La Peinture aux États-Unis," Gazette des Beaux-Arts 36 (1887): 67.
Bequest of Mrs. Martin Brimmer