L’Alsace. Elle attend (Alsace. She waits)

1871
Oil on canvas
H. 60cm x W. 30cm

L’Alsace. Elle Attend was commissioned on the initiative of Eugénie Kestner, a member of the Thann industrial family from Alsace.

It was given to Léon Gambetta (1838-1882) who was one of the fiercest opponents of the relinquishment of the Alsace-Lorraine region to the new German Empire following the war of 1870. In the context of the heightened patriotism that followed the French defeat, Henner’s painting quickly became a symbol of Alsace’s suffering, a pain shared by the painter who was very attached to the region of his birth. This is not a portrait but the personification of Alsace, an allegory of the real world. A young Alsatian women in mourning, simple and dignified.

At that time, the painter had adopted a naturalistic style as can be seen in his Woman on a Black Sofa, which was exhibited at the Salon of 1869. The rosette in the red, white and blue colours of France, pinned onto the traditional black Alsatian bow, gives the painting its patriotic significance without being pompous or anecdotal.