Only rarely did Renoir ask his children to pose in costume for portraits that endeavoured to be more ambitious than those where he painted them almost without their knowing. This portrait therefore required several sittings.
Young Claude, then aged around eight, did not appreciate having to put on this red clown costume and wear stockings that prickled and tickled him. Claude remembers that the last sittings were epic, requiring first threats, then negotiations. Finally, Claude agreed to wear the stockings for a short time in return for a box of oil paints and a train set.
The size of the painting, the background with its marble column evoking a palace, and the choice of a full length portrait of the child, show that Renoir wanted to do a ceremonial portrait of his son, to measure himself against the great masters, Velázquez in particular. The pose of the young boy, although a little more frontal, is close to that in Edouard Manet’s L’Enfant à l’épée [Boy with a Sword].
Provenance : déposé par l'artiste chez Durand-Ruel du 1er septembre 1914 au 27 juillet 1917 ; dans l'atelier de Renoir à sa mort ; Claude Renoir (?) ; Ambroise Vollard (?) ; Paul Guillaume (?) ; Domenica Walter