Guillaume-Charles Brun - The Young Rag Seller 
During the 19th century, rags were viewed as a valuable commodity, widely collected for recycling into paper. It is estimated that there were 15,000 rag pickers in Paris alone, and at least 100,000 in France in the middle of the 19th century. Most were children and teens. A Victorian-era artist like Brun (French, 1825 - 1908) would have been aware that writers of his day often used the metaphor of recycling rags into clean paper as a way of discussing how society might transform the lives of its street children into those of social usefulness, education enabling them to take the imprint of new, more hopeful life stories.
[Heritage Auctions - Oil on canvas, 120.7 x 80.6 cm]