Lot 140
  • 140

Marie Bashkirtseff

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
61,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Marie Bashkirtseff
  • Portrait of a Young Woman Reading
  • signed in Latin, inscribed RUSS and dated 1880 l.l.
  • oil on canvas


Paris, Salon de 1880, no. 3379 titled Jeune femme lisant la Question du Divorce d'Alexandre Dumas.


Exhibition Catalogue Salon de 1880, Paris, p. 334, no. 3379 listed under the artist's pseudonym RUSS. The dimensions indicated appear to include the frame.

Catalogue Note

This intimate portrait of an elegant young woman absorbed in her reading epitomises the world view of the remarkable émigré artist Marie Bashkirtseff, who left Russia for Nice as a young girl and settled in Paris shortly after. Intelligent and cultured, as a result of her travels in Europe and a solid education in languages, literature and music, Bashkirtseff initially trained as an opera singer before transferring to the Academie Julian, the only institution where women could study fine art. Her brilliant career was cut short by her untimely death from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-six, however in this time she was recognised as a leading artist of the late 19thcentury, and her paintings are on view in The State Russian Museum, St Petersburg (Spring, 1884) and The Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Le portrait de Dina Babanine).

Bashkirtseff drew on scenes from daily life and her family for inspiration, and the offered lot is believed to depict her cousin, Dina Babanin, the future Countess Toulouse-Lautrec. The work reflects the importance which the artist accorded the position of women in society and in particular her aspirations for female independence, an unconventional vision in a world where a woman could not dedicate herself wholeheartedly to an artistic vocation.  Although famous for her feminist outlook during her lifetime through articles written under the pseudonym Pauline Orrel, it was the publication of her uncensored diaries in 1995 that revealed her to be one of the most forward thinkers on the subject of women's emancipation.

Through this portrait of a refined and cultured woman, Bashkirtseff conveys her own interest in literature and the choice of specifying the title of Dumas’ groundbreaking book, La Question du Divorce (1880) in her original title is a pertinent one.  In short, the offered lot stands as a rare example of an autobiographical masterwork, which today can be appreciated for its audacious and modern subtext.