The First Lesson of Fraternal Friendship
French (1773 or 1775)
Oil on canvas
'In a rustic interior are six figures, representing a family of the upper classes (father at left, mother third from right, older son in black bonnet, white shirt and pants, blue sash) paying a visit to their youngest son, in the care of a wet nurse. The two brothers kiss; at right, a young male peasant and an old woman survey the scene. At right is a covered bed, in right foreground is still life of brass pot, ceramic jar, onions, and cabbage. In this painting, an aristocratic couple has taken their older son to a wet nurse’s cottage to visit his baby brother. The practice of wet nursing, in which families sent their babies away to be breast-fed for the first few years of their lives, was common throughout most of the 18th century. By the time Etienne Aubry painted this scene, wet nursing was coming under attack by Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau for being unnatural and detrimental to a child’s development.'