1. See for these pen-and-ink drawings: letter 430, n. 1.
2. Probably Weaver (F 1116 / JH 462 [2455]). Cf. letter 442, n. 4.
3. Cf. for this recommendation for a grey passepartout: letter 216, n. 4.
4. Uncle Cor’s daughter: Johanna Hendrina van Gogh.
5. Van Gogh derived these ideas about a wife and children’s inspirational role for an artist from Michelet’s L’amour and La femme, and from Sensier’s book about Millet. Sensier refers to the importance of family life to the artist and paints a picture of Millet as a family man (‘Homme de la famille’). See Sensier 1881, pp. 84, 159 (quotation), 161-162, 220. Cf. also Van Uitert 1993, p. 139 (n. 36).
6. Van Gogh did not get the notion that God blesses large families from Sensier’s biography. He may have based the expression on the emphasis that Sensier placed on the fact that Millet, the father of nine children and devoted to the family from which he himself came, was unarguably a family man: ‘All these scenes of family life were very innocent and very full of emotion: Millet spoke of children, house and home in tender words unknown to Parisian bachelors’. (Toutes ces scènes familières étaient bien naïves et bien émues: Millet a parlé des enfants, de la maison, du foyer avec des tendresses inconnues aux célibataires parisiens). Sensier 1881, p. 346.
7. The observation that Millet broke with his earlier benefactors relates to the 1835-1841 period. Cherbourg municipality and the department of Manche paid him an allowance for his training as a painter, but in 1841, when he was asked to paint the portrait of the late mayor Javain from a miniature, they were dissatisfied with the result and publicly abandoned him. See Sensier 1881, pp. 42-43, 72-75. Sensier was Millet’s patron.
8. Millet married Pauline Virginie Ono in November 1841. ‘This union was not happy, in fact. Millet’s young wife was of a sickly constitution, all she did was suffer and waste away, and she died in Paris on 21 April 1844.’ (Cette union en effet ne fut pas heureuse. La jeune femme de Millet était une constitution maladive; elle ne fit que souffrir et se consumer, et elle mourut à Paris le 21 avril 1844.) His second wife was Catherine Lemaire, from Lorient, and she, according to Sensier 1881, pp. 76, 84, ‘was to be the mother of his children and his devoted lifelong companion’ (devait être la mère de ses enfants et la compagne dévouée de toute sa vie).
Millet’s dramatic pose, unmanned by melancholy and sitting with his head in his hands, does not occur anywhere in Sensier. All he said – aside from what has been quoted above – was: ‘Millet’s first marriage had been most unhappy’ (Le premier mariage de Millet avait été bien malheureux). Sensier 1881, p. 83. Van Gogh himself made several drawings of this subject (inspired by English wood engravings).