Formal portraits of sisters, whether they are princesses, aristocrats or the daughters of merchants, are common throughout Western art history. By the end of the 19th century, however, portraits of girls in informal poses and surrounding were also quite usual.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pink and Blue (Alice and Elisabeth Cahen d'Anvers), 1881, S√£o Paulo Museum of Art, S√£o Paulo. Wiki Commons.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pink and Blue (Alice and Elisabeth Cahen d’Anvers), 1881, São Paulo Museum of Art, São Paulo. Wiki Commons.

In Renoir’s Pink and Blue, we are presented with the daughters of the banker Louis Raphael Cahen d’Anvers. Elizabeth and Alice were six and five years old respectively when this likeness was painted.

The little girls are shown within their exquisite home environment, happy and with bright inquisitive smiles in matching stylish dresses, one of pink and one of blue. Renoir was commissioned to paint several portraits for this prominent family of the Parisian Jewish community.

He painted a single portrait of the oldest daughter, Irene as well. Alice reported later that, “the boredom of the sitting sessions was recompensed by the pleasure of wearing the elegant lace dress.” She lived to be almost 90. However, Elizabeth died on the way to Auschwitz in 1944.

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