Lot 35
  • 35

Anders Zorn

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Anders Zorn
  • A Portrait of the Daughters of Ramón Subercaseaux
  • signed Zorn and dated 1892 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 32 by 25 1/2 in
  • 81.3 by 65 cm


Commissioned by Ramón Subercaseaux, Paris (1892)
Matias Errazuriz, Buenos Aires (by descent from the above, his cousin, 1937)
Josefina Errazuriz Alvear, Buenos Aires (by descent from the above, her father)
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, October 27, 1988, lot 141, illustrated
Verner Amell, Stockholm
Private Collection, Stockholm
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, May 28, 1992, lot 117, illustrated
Acquired at the above sale

Catalogue Note

Anders Zorn's technical virtuosity, personal vivacity and instinct for color and composition caught the attention of a dedicated international audience.  He was praised in his native Sweden and greatly esteemed in London, Paris and America, earning substantial commissions at a time when society portraiture was a competitive, elevated and fashionable discipline.  Zorn, like his contemporaries John Singer Sargent, Giovanni Boldini, James McNeill Whistler, Joaquín Sorolla and William Merritt Chase, among many others, chronicled and celebrated the great luminaries of the era; their efforts provide us with a phenomenal visual archive of an elite group who represented the optimistic and enthusiastic spirit of their generation.

From the Spring of 1888, Zorn lived with his wife Emma in Paris, first at 11 rue Daubigny, and then on the boulevard de Clichy in Montmartre, where they would remain until 1896. His arrival coincided with the momentous Exposition Universelle of 1889, where he was awarded a first-class medal and decorated with the Légion d’Honneur (the most prestigious order in France). He quickly established a strong social and artistic circle, which led to commissions from influential members of society, including the wealthy Chilean diplomat and artist, Ramón Subercaseaux, whose daughters, Blanca and Rosaria, are the subject of the present work (Pedro Subercaseaux Errazuriz, Memorias, Santiago, Chile, 1962, p. 39).

Ramón Subercaseaux and his wife Amalia y Errazuriz Urmeneta, herself from a prominent Chilean family, had arrived in Paris in 1874 and developed close friendships with many of Zorn’s contemporaries, including Sargent, who painted Madame Subercaseaux early in his career at their apartment in the Bois de Boulogne (1881, Portrait of Madame Ramon Subercaseaux, Private Collection, fig. 1). Sargent probably introduced the Subercaseaux-Errazuriz family to Boldini before moving to London in 1886, and this introduction proved fruitful for Boldini as he painted members of the Subercaseaux family many times over the course of decades, including a double portrait of Blanca and Rosaria’s brothers (Portrait of Luis and Pedro Subercaseaux, 1887, Private Collection, sold in these rooms, April 23, 2004, lot 103, fig. 2), and again in Portrait of the Young Subercaseaux (1891, Museo Giovanni Boldini, fig. 3), in addition to his portrait of their coquettish cousin, Giovinetta Errazuriz (1891, Private Collection, and sold in these rooms, November 4, 2010, lot 75).

Boldini first encountered Zorn’s paintings in 1890 at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and, according to the caricaturist Sem, one of Boldini’s closest and most faithful friends, Zorn’s paintings had a strong influence on him: “Painted at arm’s length, with bold, broad strokes, they opened his eyes and revealed to him his true temperament” (as quoted in Gabriel Badea-Päun, The Society Portrait, Painting, Prestige and the Pursuit of Elegance, London, 2007, p. 160). Before 1892, Zorn was well-known for working in watercolors, a medium perfectly suited to his free-flowing style of application which was fashionable at the time, but he was beginning to work more and more in oils. Watercolors such as Les desmoiselles Schwartz (1889, Musée d’Orsay, fig. 4) and Reveil, Boulevard Clichy (1892, Private Collection, fig. 5), anticipate the dramatic tonality and bold composition of the present work, and may have attracted the patronage of Ramón Subercaseaux.

While the Errazuriz and Subercaseaux children in Boldini’s portraits project a forthright individuality and personality, confronting the viewer with an amplified psychological intensity, Zorn’s approach is quietly voyeuristic by comparison. In the present work, the artist is invisible as the girls are oblivious to his presence, uninterrupted from whatever captivates them.  Zorn has adopted an unusual perspective, tilting the picture plane up as if low to the floor himself, assuming the view of his sitters.  His composition is modern and sophisticated; a study of color and form that transcends the conventions of a commissioned portrait. As he contains his subject on the left side and extends their focus beyond the limits of the canvas, he creates a dream-like effect, inviting the viewer to enter into the curious world of these two girls rather than contemplate them from a distance.

Zorn’s oeuvre demonstrates an ongoing effort to test conventions of composition and challenge the dynamic between the artist’s subject and their relationship to the viewer. In this portrait, the Subercaseaux girls have a universal quality, without specificity of time and place. Stylistically, Zorn has calibrated his paint application with an effortless fluidity, emphasized by the wide expanse of loosely painted sun streaked orange carpet. The artist Axel Reinhold Lingholm described the artist's way of working: “It is no paradox when I say that Zorn painted carefully, he painted quickly. Each brushstroke was precisely calculated before being executed. First the hand described the necessary motion in the air, and then the stroke was performed with style and confidence. Despite alterations caused by the model’s movements, Zorn never painted anything, not the least thing, haphazardly” (as quoted in John Cederlund, Hans Henrik Brummer, Per Hedström, James A. Ganz, Anders Zorn, Sweden’s Master Painter, exh. cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2013, p. 17).