Gustave Courbet (1819 - 1877), 1872
oil on canvas,
59.4 cm x 73.5 cm
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
Gustave Courbet painted the words ‘Ste.-Pélagie’ at the lower right of this still life with apples. This was the name of the prison where he spent six months as a political prisoner from September 1871. The police had arrested him during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. While in custody he complained that he could not paint without a model. Subsequently, his sister Zoé was allowed to bring him fruit and flowers so that he could paint still lifes.
After his release, the pictures he had painted behind bars proved to be quite in demand. They sold so well that he added the prison’s name and the year ’71 to several still lifes he produced later, in 1872. This is one of those paintings.