Yvonne and Christine Lerolle were the eldest daughters of the painter and collector Henry Lerolle (1848-1929). In this double portrait, Yvonne is on the left at the piano, and Christine, on the right, is turning the pages of the music. At the time the girls were eighteen and twenty respectively. They are shown in the family sitting room, and we can see two paintings on the wall by Edgar Degas (1834-1917): Avant la course [Before the Race] and Danseuses sous un arbre [Dancers under a Tree] which were part of their father’s collection. Music was important to the Lerolle family, who held musical soirees and regularly invited the composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) into their home. The two sisters married Eugène and Louis Rouart, two sons of the industrialist, painter and collector Henri Rouart. Degas, a friend of the Lerolle and Rouart families, introduced them to each other.
Renoir was a close friend of the Lerolles, and was particularly fond of Christine. Curiously, and without anyone knowing why, this painting was never part of the Lerolle collection, and Renoir kept it at his home until he died.
Renoir executed a series of preparatory drawings using various techniques. He gave considerable thought to the composition of this painting and chose a landscape format, unlike his Jeunes filles au piano [Young Girls at the Piano], giving the painting a more stable, more bourgeois character. His style here is more classical and less impressionistic. The contours are clearly defined, and the colours less dazzling.
Domenica Walter, who particularly liked Renoir, was very fond of this painting. It was prominently displayed in the dining room of her luxury apartment in the rue du Cirque in Paris.
Provenance: in Auguste Renoir’s personal collection until his death; Knoedler and Bernheim-Jeune; Bernheim-Jeune alone, 1926; Rochecouste Collection; acquired in two stages by Domenica Walter: it was first bought jointly with Paul Durand-Ruel at a public auction in 1937, then she bought Paul Durand-Ruel’s share after 1947.