Lot 12
  • 12

Jozef Israëls

100,000 - 150,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jozef Israëls
  • Dreams (Dolce far niente)
  • signed J Israels (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 50 5/8 by 79 1/4 in.
  • 128.5 by 201.2 cm


Gimbel Brothers, Philadelphia, October 1927, no. 121 (as Sunset)
Private Collector (acquired from the above)
Thence by descent
Acquired from the above


The Hague, Tentoonstelling van werken van Levende Meesters (Exhibition of Works by Living Masters), 1859, no. 294 (as Droomen)
Ghent, Salon, 1859, no. 264  (as Rêverie)
Groningen, Tentoonstelling van werken van Levende Meesters, Pictura, 1860, no. 87  (as Droomen der jeugd)
Amsterdam, Tentoonstelling van werken van Levende Meesters, 1860, no. 188 (as Luchtkasteelen)


"Brieven over de’s Gravenhaagsche Tentoonstelling. II’, Algemeen Handelsblad, June 8, 1859
Rd. v. W, "l’Exposition de la Haye," Journal des Beaux-Arts,  1859, vol. 1, p. 92
W. Bürger [T. Thoré], "Exposition à la Haye," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1859, vol. 3, pp. 104-5
"Le Salon de Gand," Journal des Beaux-Arts, 1859, vol. 1, p. 138
"Exposition des Beaux-Arts de Gand," l’Indépendance Belge, August 19, 1859
"Exposition des Beaux-Arts de Gand," Le Précurseur, August 1, 1859
"Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen, vanwege het genootschap Pictura, te Groningen," Provinciale Groninger Courant, June 2, 1860
"De tentoonstelling van schilder- en andere kunstwerken van Levende Meesters in de kunstzalen van ‘Arti et Amicitiae’ te Amsterdam," Kunstkronijk, 1860, N.S. 1, p. 63
[J.A. Alberdingk Thijm], "De Amsterdamsche Ten-toon-stellingen van 1860 […]," De Dietsche Warande, 1859, vol. 5, p. 589, note 13
"Stedelijke tentoonstelling van schilder- en andere werken van levende kunstenaars te Amsterdam. II," Algemeen Handelsblad, September 12, 1860
Carel Vosmaer, "Jozef Israëls," Onze Hedendaagsche schilders, Gravenhage, 1881-85, p. 3
Hendrik Willem Mesdag, "Jozef Israels," Groningsche Volksalmanak voor het jaar 1895, Groningen, 1894, p. 115
M. Eisler, "Zandvoort 1855," Elseviers Geïllustreerd Maandschrift, (1911), vol. 42, p. 285
Dieuwertje Dekkers, ‘De Kinderen der Zee. De samenwerking tussen Jozef Israëls en Nicolaas Beets’, Jong Holland, (1986), no 1, pp. 42-3 
Dieuwertje Dekkers, Jozef Israels, een succesvol schilder van het vissersgenre, Phd. diss. University of Amsterdam 1994, cat. no. 7
Dieuwertje Dekkers, with contributions by Martha Kloosterboer, Ronald de Leeuw, Judy Schagen, et. al, Jozef Israëls 1824-1911, exh. cat., Groninger Museum, Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, 1999-2000, pp. 22-3

Catalogue Note

Jozef Israëls first exhibited the present work in The Hague in 1859 as Droomen (Dreams), and it attracted immediate attention. The influential art critic Théophile Thoré wrote in the widely-read Gazette des Beaux-Arts that the large composition  "stood above all" (William Bürger (Thoré's pseudonym), p. 104). Thoré was particularly impressed by Israëls' realism in painting the young "fillette de pêcheur" resting on the sand dunes, hands behind her head (as if on a hammock, he thought), looking out to sea with the sun's warm rays reflecting on the water's gently rippling surface. Rather than an explicit narrative, Israëls' panoramic composition—its well-modeled figure, delineated forms, and bright palette—created a  "communication sympathique" between the dreaming girl on her peaceful beach and the viewer who could easily relate to the "poetic" scene of quiet reflection.  As such, Dreams is closely related to many of Israëls' most recognizable large-scale masterworks of the 1850s, like After the Storm (1858, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam).

Despite Dreams' evocative subject and welcome reception in exhibitions, before today it has been thought lost and known primarily by an 1861 engraving. This engraving, coupled with Thoré's description of the painting's original size, suggests that a portion of the sand and sea on the left-hand side of the canvas was cut away sometime after its exhibition. The reason for this change, along with much of the history of the painting, remains unknown, in part because of its ever-changing title; over the past century Dreams has been known alternatively as Dolce far niente, Rêverie, Dreams of Youth, Castles in the Air or Sunset.  After 1860, the work was not publicly displayed or definitively recorded until 1927, when it was hung at Gimbel Brothers in Philadelphia.  Like Marshall Field's in Chicago and other American department stores through the early 1900s, Gimbel Brothers (later known as Gimbels) sold fine art as well as fashion and household goods, all promoted through pervasive publicity campaigns. The department store's savvy marketing is evidenced in the catalogue for the "remarkable sale of rare oil paintings" launched on October 31, 1927  which promised an event "overwhelmingly in tune with the Times." While the sale included over 350 works, only two were singled out on the title page: Edouard Dubuffe's portrait of Rosa Bonheur and "a very important picture by Josef Israels [sic] called 'Sunset'" (fig.1).  Appraised by Gimbel Brothers at  $10,000, the present work was on sale for $5,000, making it by the far the most valuable painting in the collection, which included works by Thomas Gainsborough, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The price demanded by Dreams evidences both the painting's universally appreciated subject matter and the continued interest in the artist's work in the United States. From the 1890s, Israëls' paintings of fisherfolk were particularly popular with American collectors, many of them wealthy industrialists or business tycoons who favored Dutch painting. Held until recently by the family of the collector who purchased the work from Gimbel Brothers in 1927, Dreams has been considered lost for most of its 154-year history, and its reappearance today marks a major discovery.