Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire


Thomas Sully ( American, 1783 - 1872 )

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General Description

In the late 1830s, in response to financial problems, Thomas Sully began to create "fancy pictures" of literary and sentimental subjects for the open market. This painting—one of Sully's largest and most successful—illustrates the fairy tale "Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper" by Charles Perrault. First published in France in 1692 and a perennial favorite in English translation after 1729, Cinderella is the story of a beautiful girl mistreated by her family who ultimately wins a prince with a little help from her fairy godmother. For his portrayal, Thomas Sully focused on the poignant moment when the humble maid, denied an invitation to the royal ball, plays with her cat while her vain step sisters primp in the background. His daughter Rosalie was his model. The artist, desperate to raise funds, finished the work rapidly, in just two months. A success when it was exhibited in Philadelphia in 1844 and Baltimore in 1848, the painting displays the delicate glazes, rosy palette, and fluid brushwork that were trademarks of Sully's dazzling style, combined with a popular subject familiar to generations of viewers.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 180.

  • William Keyse Rudolph, DMA label text, 2006

Related Multimedia

Collection smARTphone video; Sue Canterbury discusses Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire by Thomas Sully (DMA collection 2005.1)
Learn about Thomas Sully (1783–1872).
Listen to the Cinderella story.

Fun Facts

  • The name "Cinderella" is derived from the French term "cendrillon" which means "little ashes."

Web Resources

  • Cinderella Stories
    In addition to Charles Perrault's Cinderella, there are many other versions of this folk tale. Read an assortment on D. L. Ashliman's list of folktexts.