“Paint as you see, and be accurate in your drawing,” was the advice of Bouguereau, an academic painter with a “photo-idealist” style. Indeed, the studio models in this painting — two children dressed as peasants — are depicted with virtuoso minuteness. But the realism stops there. Although the life-size scale of the figures is a concession to the Naturalism of the period, this image is neither a pitiful plea for the peasantry nor a glorification of country life. For sheer love of the beautiful, Bouguereau idealizes the plump, perfectly foreshortened arms, the clean, fleshy feet, the porcelain complexions. These sweet little bucolic faces are imbued with a contemporary nostalgia for the happiness of the countryside and a stock-in-trade picturesqueness. But what is the subject of this painting? Nothing if not the pleasure of anecdote and the accomplished workmanship that wealthy American buyers appreciated in the paintings of this “pompier” artist, honoured during his lifetime, forgotten and then discovered once again.