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Sotheby's to Offer 19th Century European Art Including Orientalist Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture
Jules Breton, Washerwomen of the Breton Coast. Oil on canvas. 53 ¼ by 79 ¼ in. (135 by 201 cm) Est. $400/600,000. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- On April 24, 2009, Sotheby’s New York will offer a selection of the very best examples of the artists, schools and styles of 19th Century European painting – from Academic and Barbizon to Orientalist and Victorian. The sale of approximately 120 lots continues Sotheby’s focus on offering collectors a selection of the highest quality works. Works from the sale, estimated to bring more than $14 million, will be on view at Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning April 18.

Among the highlights are a number of recently rediscovered works by artists such as Giovanni Boldini, Ludwig Deutsch, and Jules Breton, including his Washerwomen of the Breton Coast, which had been lost since the 1890s (est. $400/600,000). The Washerwomen was one of the first major Breton pictures to enter an American collection, purchased most likely in the early 1870s by Edwin Denison Morgan, Governor of New York during the beginning of the Civil War, and trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln. Morgan promoted Breton’s reputation in America (as well as his own as a major collector) by sharing his impressive art collection with friends in his Washington, D.C. and New York homes, where The Washerwomen was a visitors’ favorite. After Morgan’s death, the painting was sold in his estate sale to another wealthy New York financier. Despite the importance of the work to Breton’s early career, his American reputation, and the power of the men who first owned it, by the turn of the 20th Century the painting had disappeared from view and record – only to emerge recently in a private French collection. The Washerwomen of the Breton Coast’s exhibition at Sotheby’s New York will be the first public viewing in the United States in over 130 years.

Also featured will be French Academic painter William Bouguereau’s Les Deux Soeurs from 1899 (est. $1.5/1.8 million). At the end of the 19th Century, the life of the rural working class became a popular subject among French painters such as Bouguereau. Here, the artist’s peasant girls personify the romantic conceptions of innocence and simplicity that wealthy urban dwellers associated with rural life, which is reinforced by examination of the many photographs taken of the artist’s subjects. By comparing the photographs to the painted picture, the artist’s tendency to idealize his subjects, consciously or unconsciously, becomes evident.

Highlights from leading Barbizon school painters will include Jean-François Millet’s Woodcutter and His Wife Preparing Fagots (est. $300/400,000). Drawn in the late 1860s, this work was one of a group of pastels specially commissioned by the wealthy French architect Emile Gavet. Gavet’s commission allowed Millet to choose his own subjects and provided an opportunity to experiment widely with colors and techniques, expanding beyond his black crayon repertoire. Millet gave pastel drawing an entirely new life in 19th Century French art, though his achievements were only fully recognized after his death, when closely hoarded Millet pastels slowly came into the marketplace and exhibition halls. The present work was exhibited as part of a special memorial exhibition after the artist’s death, and was lauded by an art dealer’s then-unknown employee – named Vincent Van Gogh. Other highlights will include two works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot: La Barque à la Pointe de l’Ile (est. $100/150,000) and Lisère de Bois (est. $80/120,000).

Among a particularly fine offering of Orientalist pictures, Sotheby’s will present important works by three of the most sought-after artists of the category – John Frederick Lewis, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Ludwig Deutsch. Highlighting the group is Lewis’s extraordinary picture The Kibab Shop, Scutari, Asia Minor, from 1858 (est. $1.5/2 million), which portrays a “kebab” shop in the northwestern Turkish city of Scutari with incredible realism and attention to detail. Also by Lewis is The Arab Caravan Encampment at Edfou (est. $150/200,000). Lewis so loved the watercolor medium that even after he moved to oil paints for financial reasons he continued to paint small-scale watercolors of his larger oil pictures. The present lot is one such watercolor related to a painting of the same subject at the Tate Gallery, London. Jean-Léon Gérôme’s paintings exemplify the highly realistic style of painting that was the hallmark of Orientalist painting in the mid-19th Century. His painting A Bashi-Bazouk and His Dog (est. $600/800,000) portrays an impulsive and hot-headed fighter with profound skill and attention to detail, creating a canvas rich with psychological content. Other lots by Gérôme include another depiction of A Bashi-Bazouk warrior (est. $600/800,000) and Egyptian Grain-Cutters (est. $80/100,000). Ludwig Deutsch, acclaimed as a master painter of daily life in Cairo, will be represented by The Lamp Lighter (est. $600/800,000), which, in contrast to his frequent depictions of political power and material wealth, speaks to the grace and humility found in even the smallest acts of servitude.

Jean Béraud, the quintessential chronicler of Belle Époque Paris, will be represented by Le Pont Neuf (est. $400/600,000), and Le Boulevard Saint-Denis, Paris, dated 1899 (est. $180/220,000), both of which capture the modernization of Paris and the inhabitants of its busy streets at the turn of the century. Giovanni Boldini’s On the Terrace (est. $500/700,000) depicts two young women enjoying a moment of fresh air on their balcony. Boldini’s signature brushwork makes a grand impression despite the work's diminutive scale; his staccato strokes of color move rapidly across the composition, forming the lace and ruffles of the ladies’ fashionable dresses while conveying the lush density of the climbing roses.

John William Waterhouse’s 1916 canvas Miranda-The Tempest will also be offered (est. $600/800,000). Waterhouse, whose dramatic portrayals of fabled women are recognized and loved by many, painted his interpretation of Shakespeare’s Miranda as one of three works to be submitted to the Royal Academy in 1916. Miranda-The Tempest is considered to be one of the artist’s most accomplished later works. As with many of Waterhouse’s single-figure pictures of women, Miranda is a legendary, mystical woman withdrawn from the world – her future in peril as she braces herself against the rising storm, with her thick, auburn hair and the weighty folds of her fabric gripped by the winds.

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