Though Cézanne rarely hired professional models, an Italian named Michelangelo di Rosa was the subject for this work—one in a series of four paintings and two watercolors he made of this boy in a red vest. Di Rosa is seen here in profile, casually hunched over with his hands on his lap. The short brushstrokes and triangular composition of the work provide a sense of volume and underscore the monumental stability of the figure. In one account, the painting's first owner, the artist Claude Monet, referred to Boy in a Red Vest as the best picture he owned, and it inspired him to declare of his contemporary, "Cézanne is the greatest of us all."
Gallery label from Cézanne to Picasso: Paintings from the David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection, July 17–August 31, 2009.