Ancient French Painting
Chronology : 1700-1719 1750-1759 1760-1769 1780-1789 1810-1819 1820-1829 1830-1839 1840-1849 1860-1869
1718-1719 Christie's discovered a Watteau, what a surprise !
2008 SOLD 12.3 M£ including premium
A little more than one month ago, Christie's had announced in a press release the reappearance of a painting of Watteau presumedly destroyed for two centuries. The press had seized this information, rightly. Let us not forget it, but it is necessary to wait two more months for the sale, which will be done in London on July 8.
Entitled "la Surprise", this painting was known through a copy, and the owner was unaware of being in possession of an original. If as it is probable Christie's manages to sell it, the pockets of this happy British countryman will then have filled from at least 3 M£.
Of small size, it is an outdoor scene, elegant and dynamic, with feverish movement, with images typified according to the so specific technique of Watteau: the player of guitar, the couple of lovers, the puppy.
A masterpiece? Yes. One of the great biddings of the year? Probably not. The painting, whose exact dimensions are not revealed in the official statement, appears to be not larger than a paper sheet.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price obtained is also a surprise: £ 12.3 million charge included.
This painting had been announced well in advance by Christie's as one of the highlights of the season. It had the advantage of never being viewed before on the market and disadvantage of being small: 36x28 cm.
The market has thus confirmed the view of Christie's that this painting is a masterpiece of Watteau, and that Watteau is a major painter in the history of art. There is no doubt that we will not soon see a similar one reappear in a sale. A masterpiece that can be considered as single on the market has no price, but I think nobody could reasonably predict that it would be so high.
1757 Vernet came back to Avignon
2013 SOLD 5.4 M£ including premium
The port is seen as a very elongated panorama with great care given to the truth of the details. The foreground is animated by characters in their local daily activities, adding the study of manners to the topographic realism.
Vernet does not crush the view in a narrow format and leaves a large place to sky, treated with abundant clouds in a beautiful sunset light. Only Francesco Guardi in his best period has reached such a balance between topographic realism and artistic imagination.
In 1757, Vernet gets permission from the marquis to spend a few months in his hometown of Avignon where he executes an ancient commission for a local dignitary.
Completed in 1757 as a 99 x 183 cm oil on canvas, the view of Avignon from the right bank of the Rhône is smaller than the royal paintings but has otherwise identical characteristics, with a similar topographic detail. Of course, private works made by Vernet during the period of the Ports of France are very rare.
The Avignon view is estimated £ 3M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 3.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting dates from the best period of Vernet. It deserved £ 5.4 million including premium.
The image is shared on Wikimedia:
1769 Fragonard out of his Time
2013 SOLD 17 M£ including premium
Fragonard made a small series of oils on canvas known under the generic title of Portraits de fantaisie. Only one of these artworks is dated : 1769, the year of his marriage. It is not by chance.
Close to the aristocracy, Fragonard endeavours at that time to demonstrate that he may revolutionize the art of portrait. These paintings are comparable to the tronies made by Rembrandt. The likeness to the sitter is not the most important.
The movement of shoulders and head brings energy and even violence. Strong colors evoke passion. Fancy costumes "à l'Espagnole" provide a theatrical dimension that also positions the work out of its time.
Influenced by Chardin, Fragonard understood the importance of color. This series of fantasy portraits is an essential link in the history of art between Rembrandt and Manet. He will be the great-granduncle of Berthe Morisot.
Few models have been identified with certainty. Brilliant intellectual, François-Henri d' Harcourt enjoyed his portrait to the point that his family kept it until 1971.
This oil on canvas 81 x 65 cm was then purchased at auction by Dr. Rau. Coming now from this prestigious collection, it is for sale to the benefit of UNICEF by Bonhams in London on December 5.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting has some exceptional qualities reinforced by the fact that it was one of the top masterpieces of the Rau collection and was sold for the benefit of UNICEF. It was sold for £ 17M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Bonhams on YouTube. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1788 The Ambassador from Mysore
2019 SOLD for $ 7.2M including premium
The arrival in Paris in July 1788 of three ambassadors from Mysore with a suite of about thirty people is a sensational and picturesque event. Great enemy of the English, the Sultan of Mysore was preparing a new war and hoped to be helped by France. The sumptuous Muslim clothes of his diplomats ensure their credibility.
Elisabeth remembers opportunely that one of her earliest ambitions had been to be a history painter. With the indispensable support of King Louis XVI, she obtains the authorization to paint the portraits of these exotic lords.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells the full length portrait of the leader of the delegation, lot 48 estimated $ 4M.
This oil on canvas 226 x 136 cm shows the white bearded man holding an oriental sword with curved blade. This composition is reminiscent of the portrait of the young Polynesian prince Omai by Reynolds in 1776. The exotic traveler is shown life-size, standing in front of a landscape in a counter-dive view that increases his dignity.
The image shared by Wikimedia is trimmed on the left and lower edges.
1818 Portrait of the Dedreux Children by Géricault
2009 SOLD 9 M€ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The fall of the Empire opens a new phase, which culminates in 1819 with The Raft of the Medusa, a monumental work without mercy which symbolizes the true destiny of men, in a heroism devoid of meaning and hope.
In his workshop of the rue des Martyrs, Géricault regularly meets other artists including Carle and Horace Vernet, Delacroix and Dedreux-Dorcy. He makes a few portraits of the two children of Dedreux-Dorcy's brother.
In 1818 Géricault is forced against his will to take an interest in children. He could not recognize the birth of his son Georges-Hippolyte, the result of his incest with the wife of his uncle and declared as the son of the housemaid born from an unknown father.
The portrait of Alfred and Elise Dedreux is an oil on canvas 99 x 79 cm painted in 1818. The boy is 8 years old and the girl two years younger. They resemble each other and are similarly hairstyled and dressed. The girl is standing, dominating this scene.
At that time Géricault sought to convert into a neo-classical style. The double portrait is chilling. The gazes of the children are uncompromising for this world of adults in which they do not enter. The landscape behind them is arbitrary and unidentifiable. Two small flowers fall from the hand of the girl who pays no attention to them. This picture is a double tronie, anticipating by its psychological stiffness the studies of mental patients of the later period of the artist.
The young Alfred was passionate about the images of horses painted by Géricault. He will specialize in this theme under the name of Alfred de Dreux, thus usurping a noble particle.
The portrait of the Dedreux children remained in Elise's family until 1925. From the Saint-Laurent - Bergé collection, it was sold for € 9M including premium by Christie's on February 23, 2009 over a lower estimate of € 4M, lot 83. It was bought in that sale by Liliane Bettencourt. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1820 Ramel de Nogaret by David
2008 SOLD for $ 7.2M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
David runs his business well. His prices are high and his paid exhibition of the Sabines for five years in a room of the Louvre brings him a fortune. He receives a pension as Premier Peintre de l'Empire and increases his income through education and the right to engraving.
The regicides are proscribed after the fall of the Empire. David joins the imperial diaspora in Brussels where he fails to obtain an official position. From then on, to earn a living, he welcomes the commissions by his friends for portraits.
David's work has always been dual : on the one hand the heroic paintings which attract the public, on the other the realistic portraits. The portrait of Delahaye, painted in Paris in 1815, was sold for € 2.14M including premium by Christie's on June 22, 2006.
The regicide Ramel, also known as Ramel de Nogaret, was also an expatriate in Brussels. He had been Ministre des Finances under the Directoire and tried to resume political service during the Cent Jours. He was a close friend of David of whom he will deliver the funeral oration.
In 1820 David paints the portraits of Ramel and his wife. Ramel, aged 60, expresses his incorruptible virtue with dignity.
The two paintings, which had been separated, were reunited after the sale of the portrait of Ramel by Binoche for FF 16M on October 18, 1995. They were again separated in the auction by Christie's on April 15, 2008. The portrait of Ramel, oil on canvas 59 x 46 cm, was sold for $ 7.2M including premium, lot 72. The portrait of his wife was not sold. The images are shared by Wikimedia.
1834 Choc de Cavaliers Arabes by Delacroix
1998 SOLD for FF 51M including premium by Piasa
narrated in 2020
In 1834 the oil on canvas Femmes d'Alger dans leur Appartement is the masterpiece of this new exoticism. It recreates the living room of a harem by featuring women from Paris dressed in Algiers fashion. The painting which indirectly addresses the taboo theme of prostitution is accepted at the Salon and immediately purchased by the Louvre. Picasso will compare this mixture of genres to his own Demoiselles d'Avignon.
In the same year, Choc de Cavaliers Arabes is a memory of a military celebration. The artist shows the moment of heightened energy when two riders stop their galloping horses after having fired the rifle shot required by the fantasia. The theme did not appeal to the Parisian jury : this piece was rejected by the Salon. Influenced directly by Géricault and Gros, Delacroix excelled in the representation of horses.
This oil on canvas 80 x 100 cm was sold by Piasa on June 19, 1998 for FF 51M, equivalent to € 7.7M, including premium, from a lower estimate of FF 8M.
The rejection by the Salon did not discourage the artist : two autograph drawings were made in 1834 in reverse composition to prepare the lithographic edition. One of them, 18 x 25 cm, was sold for € 39K including premium by Artcurial on June 16, 2020.
1845 Corot above the Fireplace
2018 SOLD for $ 9M including premium
Nobody is really convinced by the art of Corot until the young Baudelaire, in 1845, observes that the simplicity of his landscapes is not naive but is instead a supreme harmony. As a result Corot's art is forever unclassifiable, between classicism and modernism. Despite his pleasure in open-air painting, he cannot be considered as a forerunner of the Impressionnistes, in the opposite of Boudin and Courbet slightly later.
Throughout his life Corot has a lot of friends. He supplies paintings to a magistrate of Mantes whom he met from 1840 and decorates in his own hand the walls of the bathroom with Italian views.
Corot had visited Venice in 1828 and 1834. For the same friend he painted in 1845 an enlarged version in the format 48 x 82 cm of a view of the quay of the Schiavoni towards Santa Maria della Salute.
In 1957 this painting caught the attention of David Rockefeller. It is not a Canaletto : the animation is poor. It is not a Guardi : the sky is too blue. It is neither a Turner nor a Monet : the line is too sharp to offer an atmosphere. Despite the confusing perspective on the Piazzetta, it is not a wide-angle photo. The erroneous shadows of earlier versions of this image have fortunately been rectified.
This bright painting has two other qualities : it exudes a great serenity and its width is in harmony with the fireplace of the library in the country house at Hudson Pines. It superseded at this place a Jas de Bouffan by Cézanne of which Rockefeller was tired and was to remain there until his death. It is estimated $ 5M for sale by Christie's in New York on May 8, lot 4.
1862 The Darings of Courbet
2015 SOLD for $ 15.3M including premium
He is provocative. Taking the format of an epic painting on a large size, 315 x 668 cm, L'Enterrement à Ornans makes a scandal in 1850. Proudhon is delighted.
The second empire, decreed in 1852, marks the return in France of a prudish censorship that sends its policemen against a pornography now facilitated by photography. For the artists opponent to the regime of Napoléon III, the nude becomes a challenge.
The deliberate ugliness enters the theme of the nude in 1853 with Les Baigneuses by Courbet. Even Ingres, yet close to the government, is interested in this new approach. His Bain Turc, on which he worked for ten years, is an unprecedented erotic accumulation that takes Orientalism as an excuse to avoid reprisals.
On November 9 in New York, Christie's sells a Femme nue couchée, oil on canvas 75 x 97 cm painted by Courbet in 1862, lot 10A estimated $ 15M.
The woman viewed in full length is reclining on a bed, her head turned in a rest position, looking like some replica of the Venus of Urbino but without the discreet hand. Her offering attitude and the half undone stocking reveal that a sexual activity was just completed. The provocation of the picture is increased by a surrounding in romanticist style with a curtain and a landscape.
Such women by Courbet represent a milestone in modern French painting. On one hand, new private customers invite Courbet to even more daring pictures. On the other hand, Manet does not hesitate to confront the scandal with Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe and Olympia.
1862 Portrait of the Artist as an Old Tiger
2018 SOLD for $ 9.9M including premium
The artist appreciates that passion is not a human exclusivity and he loves the powerful savagery of tigers and lions. A great admirer of Rubens, he is inspired by the whirlwind of his hunting scenes.
An artist needs real models, although Dürer's rhinoceros is a wonderful exception. Géricault is passionate about horses and Raden Saleh remembers big game hunting. For his tigers and lions, Delacroix looks at his pet cat and at stuffed animals in the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle. Fortunately the menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes hosts a tiger from 1847.
In 1862 the artist feels old and tired. The tiger remained his emblem and his friends flatter him by comparing his behavior with the anthropocentric emotions attributed to this animal. Delacroix imagines confrontations with reptiles. Facing the threat of the snake, the big cat no longer knows how he can still win.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells Tigre jouant avec une tortue, oil on canvas 45 x 62 cm painted in 1862, lot 3 estimated $ 5M.
As ever the animal behavior is fanciful. A fully grown tiger no longer plays because game is used by cubs to train in hunting. This one with a paw on the tortoise is stopping as if he waited some advice. The tortoise disturbed and threatened by the predator omitted to close its shell.
François de Ricqlès, President of Christie’s France, explains how this exceptional Romantic work that ‘marks the beginning of modernity’ also speaks to the Rockefeller family’s long and mutually admiring relationship with France. Check it out here: https://t.co/8QpCJrNHVH pic.twitter.com/alUUMid0bs— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) March 25, 2018