"La Fournée dans un village des montagnes" was painted in 1877/8 and exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878 where it was recognised as one of the best pictures. It so impressed the editor of 'L'Art' that he commissioned an engraving by Fortuné Méaulle so it could be reproduced in that magazine. That black and white image was the only surviving evidence of what the picture looked like because it soon disappeared. It was thought lost for ever until it was apparently found after being totally neglected for a very long time and recently passed into the care of a Parisian art expert who arranged its restoration. The reason it disappeared is a fascinating story.
In 1878 the Statue of Liberty was half finished by the sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi and the top half was displayed at the Paris exhibition. It was a going to be a gift from France to the USA but the money had run out. The French government decided to hold a national lottery to raise more money and bought this painting from Burnand to be one of the prizes. It was presumably won by somebody, the lottery was a success and nothing more is known about where it went.
Before restoration it was apparently in a poor condition. I am told there was a hole in it near the bottom which was reconstructed using the engraving image as a template.
It was painted at an interesting time in Burnand's life. He married Julia Girardet in 1878, the love of his life. This picture was possibly done as a result of a trip he made to Salvan in the Rhone Valley in southern Switzerland in the summer of 1877 with Julia's brother (also Eugene). Burnand was seeking the approval of Julia's father at about this time for their engagement. Paul Girardet, her father, was an acclaimed artist and engraver working in Versaille. The subject of this picture is the village oven at Les Marécottes in Valais.
It seems there is something else interesting and curious about this picture. When it was being cleaned, some tiny lettering appeared in the grass below the stone wall at the bottom right. It said "Julia". This was a complete surprise and had apparently never been noticed before. The implication being that the artist had hidden the name of his sweetheart in the picture.
A study drawing (below) for the woman with the basket is on display in the Moudon Museum
Another picture which appears to be a preliminary drawing has recently been found and identified as such and is shown below
The picture sold for €37000 and is now in a gallery in Basel.