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Enfant assis en robe bleue
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Enfant assis en robe bleue
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About the item

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Enfant assis en robe bleue\nSigned Renoir (lower right)\nOil on canvas\n25 3/4 by 21 1/4 in.\n64.8 by 54 cm\nPainted in 1889.
US
NY, US
US

notes

Portraiture was central to Renoir's aesthetic. Of all the Impressionists he was perhaps the one who most excelled at this genre and infused the traditional process of recording the likeness of a sitter with a new force and vibrancy. Renoir's success as an artist gave him the financial security that enabled him to be selective with his commissions and focus on themes of his own choosing.   He thus turned his attention to depicting members of his family.  In the present work, Renoir focuses the viewer's attention on the child's face. The refined depiction of the youth's wonderfully finished countenance and the careful rendering of the wardrobe underline the artist's meticulous attention to detail and style. Renoir was particularly moved to paint portraits of children before they had had their first haircut, seeking to capture them in the full bloom and innocence of childhood. Renoir painted several portraits of his son Jean in this manner (see fig. 1).  These portraits of childhood innocence fulfilled the artist's longing for the dignified artistic practice of the past.

Renoir's admiration for the Old Masters and the art of eighteen century France in particular led him to produce numerous portraits that enabled him to explore a full range of painterly effects. Throughout his life, Renoir had lamented the lack of Medici-style patronage for artists and the loss of the system of apprenticeship.  The present portrait of his nephew Edmond harkens to that day.  Edmond Renoir, Jr., was the only son of Renoir's younger brother, Edmond, and Mélanie Porteret.  Born on March 9, 1884, he posed for Renoir on numerous occasions in 1888 and 1889 (Daulte 531-534, 573 and 574, the present work).  He later married Hélène Rivière, the eldest daughter of Georges Rivière, Renoir's friend and biographer, and achieved distinction as a linguist and a teacher.  Of all those portraits Renoir completed, this is by far the most finished and detailed, showing the boy in full, three-quarter profile and posing in front of an ornately detailed tapestry.   Renoir devoted several major oils to depicting children, most notably in the grouping of children in Les Parapluies of 1881-85, now at the National Gallery in London, and in Girl with a Whip, from 1885 (see fig. 2).  This work ranks among his best portraits of a singular child subject.  The young boy poses in the stately manner of a Renaissance prince in a regal blue robe and, when he was not modeling, probably helped his uncle with the daily chores of maintaining the studio.  In his biography of his father, Jean recalled being an assistant and a model for his father, saying that Renoir needed "that state of abandon on the part of the model, which would allow him to touch the depths of human nature, freed of all cares and prejudices of the moment. (...) The spirit inherent in the girls and boys, the children and the trees, which filled the world he created, is as purely naked as Gabrielle's nude body. And, last of all, in this nakedness Renoir discloses his own self'" (Jean Renoir, Renoir, My Father, London, 1962, quoted in Nicholas Wadley, Renoir, A Retrospective, New York, 1987, p. 349).

Fig. 1, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait de Jean Renoir, L'enfant au cerceau, 1898, oil on canvas, Private Collection

Fig. 2, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Girl with a Whip, 1885, oil on canvas, Hermitage Museum, Saint-Petersburg

Fig. 3, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jean Renoir dessinant, 1901, oil on canvas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

dimensions

25 3/4 by 21 1/4 in. 64.8 by 54 cm

literature

François Daulte, Pierre-Auguste Renoir:  Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, figures, 1860-1890, vol. 1, Lausanne, 1971, no. 574, illustrated

provenance

Charles Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the artist on March 15, 1890)

Georges Bernheim, Paris (acquired from the above on October 31, 1916)

Alfred Daber, Paris

Paul Vallotton, Lausanne

M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above on August 13, 1927)

Private Collection, New York

Jacques Seligmann & Co., New York

Greta Garbo (acquired from the above on November 16, 1942 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 13, 1990, lot 26)

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner





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