Auguste Renoir - Woman on a staircase 1876

Woman on a staircase 1876
Woman on a staircase
1876 167x65cm oil/canvas
Private collection
Man on a staircase 1876
Man on a staircase
1876 165x67cm oil/canvas
The State Hermitage Museum,
Saint Petersburg

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Along with its companion Man on a Stair, this painting served as part of the decoration for the great staircase of the mansion belonging to Georges Charpentier, a Parisian publisher. Thanks to Madame Charpentier, this mansion became a gathering place for the artistic elite of Paris. Renoir came to the Charpentiers' salon quite often and received a number of commissions as a result. The idea behind Renoir's stairway paintings was presumably to show the master and mistress of the house descending the stairs to greet their guests.
Just as the figure in Man on a Stair resembles Georges Charpentier, so the companion figure in the present picture is like the publisher's wife, Marguerite. A short woman, inclined to plumpness, Madame Charpentier knew how to be charming, but comported herself with a dignity sometimes bordering on arrogance. She was a highly intelligent, educated woman who exerted a great influence on her husband's publishing business and consequently on the literary life of the day. It is believed that, as with Man on a Stair, Renoir, while portraying Madame Charpentier, painted the figure not from her, but from another Marguerite, better known as Margot, Renoir's chief model and mistress.
An intriguing detail in this picture is the Japanese fan. Echoed in the outlines of the female figure and the design of the banisters, it helps to link all the elements together organically.