Philippe Burty, who commissioned this etching for his article on Millet's prints in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, gives a full account of its creation with the technical assistance of Bracquemond (as cited in Delteil):
"The copper was frankly attacked. It was well bitten the first time. We covered the background and had it bitten again. Lastly Millet insisted on adding two touches of pure acid to the heads of the woman and her child. As soon as the brush touched, Bracquemond quickly splashed on drops of water. We went to Delâtre's. A worker pulled some impressions for us. At the third, Millet filled in a large white patch on the woman's neck with drypoint, added a few lines to the shading in the bonnet, a few dots to the wrist holding up the child. All in all, we had 19 printed, two of which were retouched. Bracquemond is going to add the signature."*
Although he makes no
mention of the number of proofs pulled after the addition of the
signature (i.e., the 3rd state, like the present impression),
they may be considered quite rare: over the past five years to
our knowledge only one similar impression has appeared on auction
(see Sotheby's New York, 15 May 1997, #507) .
It may be added that the crispness of the present proof, and notably the clear printing of the fine drypoint lines retouching the neck, which break down in the edition, would tend to indicate that there were very few of them pulled.
* "Le cuivre était franchement attaqué. Il a bien mordu la première fois. On a recouvert le fond et l'on a fait mordre de nouveau. Enfin, Millet a tenu à poser lui-même deux touches d'acide pur sur la tête de la femme et de son enfant. Aussitôt que le pinceau avait touché, Bracquemond jetait vite des gouttes d'eau. Nous sommes allé chez Delâtre. Un ouvrier nous a tiré des épreuves. À la troisième, Millet a bouché à la pointe-sèche un grand clair sur le cou de la femme, mis quelques traits sur l'ombre du bonnet, quelque points dans le poignet qui soutient l'enfant. Nous avons fait tirer en tout 19, dont deux retouchées. Bracquemond va y ajouter la signature."