Jean Baptiste Greuze – The Broken Pitcher

Questions to’ arouse interest. Where is this young girl? Why do you think so? What do you see in the background that tells you so? What has happened? Why does she look so serious? Does she look frightened, or just sorry? What is she carrying on her arm? What is she carrying in her apron? How is she dressed? How is her hair combed? What do you see in her hair? What is pinned on her dress? How old do you think she is? Why do you think you would like her?

Original Pictrure : Louvre (loô’vr’) Gallery, Paris, France.

Artist: Jean Baptiste Greuze (grûz).

Birthplace: Tournus (Toôr’nüs’), France. Dates: Born, 1725; died, 1805.

The story of the picture. One glance at this picture tells’ us what has happened, and why the little girl looks so serious. On her arm she carries a quaint old pitcher which she has just broken. It looks as though she were dressed for a party, for there are flowers in her hair, a bouquet on her dress, and flowers in her apron. Perhaps she had picked the flowers and was getting the water so that she could place the pitcher!, full of blossoms on the table.

She may have gathered up all the broken pieces in her apron, hoping that the pitcher can be mended. We are sure that it must have been a pitcher that she prized very highly and hopes to save, for she still holds it. But surely it is not customary to take such a good pitcher to the fountain; a tin pail or a jug would be so much safer. It must be that there is company at her home. She must have caught up the pitcher from the table and hurried away, impatient to be back with her friends. In her haste she may have slipped and fallen. Now she must go home, and they will all know what has happened.

She stands still a moment, trying to think how to tell them; she does not know just how it did happen, or whether she was really to blame or not. Had the board she stepped on not been slippery, or the pitcher not quite so heavy, and if she had not been in a hurry, all would have been well. Of one thing she is certain — she did not do it purposely. She wishes she had brought an old pitcher or a pail; but it is of no use to think about that now — the mischief is done. And somehow we feel sure she will not be punished or even scolded very much.

What a very pretty girl she is, with just such a sweet face as the artist Greuze always loved to paint. In the original painting she has blue eyes, light hair, pink cheeks, very red lips, and her dress is white. In the background we see the old stone fountain, the cool water flowing in a steady stream from the mouth of the rudely carved head. What interesting tales that fountain could tell of the rich and the poor who pass that way each day; of the many little acts of courtesy and kindness it has seen; of the thirsty, the wasteful and care-less, the happy and the sad people it has known and served.


Through the earth a tiny streamlet Pushed its way so clear and cool, Shot right up where all could see it And at length it formed a pool.

People passing stopped to taste it And it quenched their thirst so soon That they said, “Let’s build a fountain,” And to all it proved a boon.

Rich and poor came there to seek it, Came wit pails and pitchers too. But the streamlet still flowed strongly Whether many came or few.

Years passe on and still the fountain Gave to all its nectar sweet; Gave it freely to all comers, And it al Ways proved a treat.

So it gleamed with those in gladness As it moaned for those too sad. Did its very best to help them, Soothed them with the strength it had.

Come, then, tarry by this fountain, Learn its lesson ere you go. Can we do as much for others? Can we help them, friend or foe?

Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. What color is this young girl’s dress? her eyes? her hair? her cheeks? How do you think she would look if she smiled? Why does she look so serious? How do you suppose she happened to come to the fountain? Why did she hurry? What makes you think she wanted to keep this pitcher? Why do you think they will not scold her? What kind of a fountain is it? From what does the water flow? How many have watched the people who come to a fountain for water? Why do you think the fountain could tell us some interesting stories if it could talk?

To the Teacher : Have the pupils illustrate the story of the little girl going for water. Use charcoal and manila paper.

The story of the artist. Jean Baptiste Greuze was born at Tournus, France, in 1725. When, as a small boy, he began to show decided talent for drawing, his father was very much disappointed. He wanted his boy to pursue some more profitable profession, for, as he said, it was only the few who won fame and wealth as artists the rest starved.

However, the boy persevered and finally was permitted to study with an artist friend of the family. This artist became much interested in him, and when some months later, he moved to Paris, he persuaded the father to allow Greuze to go with him. Here the study was continued, Greuze receiving special instruction in the painting of heads. His greatest delight was in painting heads of children and of old men, and ” Greuze heads ” soon became famous.

Then, too, he painted many pictures from the Bible, and at one time he was ambitious to become a historical painter. It was then he went to Rome to study the paintings of the famous masters there. His first painting to bring him fame Was “A Father Explaining the Scriptures to His Family.” Our picture, “The Broken Pitcher is one of the best known and most popular of his paintings.

Questions a lout the artist. Who painted this picture? Of what nationality was he? Why did his father not want him to become an artist? What did the boy persist in doing? Who helped him? Where did he go to continue his study? What did he paint most? what other subjects?