Palazzo Ducale

Doge's Palace

HENRI ROUSSEAU. Archaic candour

Room 11

Archaic candour

March 6 – July 5, 2015
Venice, Palazzo Ducale – Doge’s Apartment


Extended until September 6, 2015



All grown-ups were children once. (But few of them remember it)”,wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943, dedicating Le Petit Prince to Léon Werth.

These works introduce a room devoted to the innocence of childhood as a prodigious and creative state of grace, as a journey to the origin of things. Splendid examples of Rousseau’s great legacy are provided by the two works on show here: To Celebrate the Baby, also known as Child with a Puppet, painted as a commission and shown at the Salon des Indépendants in 1903, and Child (or Girl) with a Doll, one of the Douanier’s most important works, not least for its influence on Carrà and Picasso.

Characterized by accentuated frontality and extraordinary expressiveimpact, the child awkwardly holding a flower and a doll looks almost physically compressed. The bare setting is marked only by stylized grass that grows thinner to suggest the depth of the meadow.

Carrà unquestionably saw the painting during his trip to Paris in March 1914 with Papini and Soffici. While its influence is evident in his Child Prodigy, the same naivety also pervades works from different times and places, such as the singular painting attributed to the Prior-Hamblin School of American primitivism and the portrait of Irene Estrella by Diego Rivera, the master of Mexican mural art, realistically painted but imbued with a sense of solitude and isolation.