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PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION

John Singer Sargent 1856 - 1925
STAIRCASE IN CAPRI (STUDY OF A STAIRCASE; STUDY OF A STAIRCASE, CAPRI)
Estimate
1,800,0002,500,000
LOT SOLD. 4,058,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
14

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION

John Singer Sargent 1856 - 1925
STAIRCASE IN CAPRI (STUDY OF A STAIRCASE; STUDY OF A STAIRCASE, CAPRI)
Estimate
1,800,0002,500,000
LOT SOLD. 4,058,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

American Art

|
New York

John Singer Sargent 1856 - 1925
STAIRCASE IN CAPRI (STUDY OF A STAIRCASE; STUDY OF A STAIRCASE, CAPRI)
signed John S. Sargent, dated 1878, and inscribed Capri (lower right)
oil on canvas
32 by 18 inches
(81.5 by 45.5 cm)
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Auguste Alexandre Hirsch, Paris, France
Madame Hirsch (his wife), 1912
M. Knoedler & Co., Paris, France and New York, 1914 (acquired from the above)
Dr. George Woodward, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1919 (acquired from the above)
Stanley Woodward (his son)
Ross Whittier
Constance Coleman
Alan Dillenberg
Ira Spanierman, New York, 1988
Pamela Harriman, Washington, D.C., 1990 (acquired from the above; sold: Sotheby's, New York, The Estate of Ambassador Pamela Harriman, May 19, 1997, lot 91, illustrated)
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale

Exhibited

New York, Knoedler Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by the Late John Singer Sargent, November 1925, no. 13
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the Late John Singer Sargent, November-December 1925, no. 1, p. 3 (as Study of a Staircase, dated 1874)
West Palm Beach, Florida, Norton Gallery and School of Art, In Nature's Way: American Landscape Painting of the Late 19th Century, February-April 1987, no. 62, pp. 11, 118, illustrated p. 106
London, Tate Gallery, Sargent, October 1998-January 1999, no. 6, pp. 61, 71, illustrated p. 70

Literature

William H. Downes, John S. Sargent: His Life and Work, Boston, Massachusetts, 1925, p. 261 (as Study of a Staircase)
Evan Charteris, John Sargent, London, England and New York, 1927, p. 280 (as dated 1874)
Charles Merrill Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography, London, England, 1955, no. K782, p. 442 (as Study of a Staircase, Capri, 1875)
Margaret C. Conrads, American Paintings and Sculpture at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, New York, 1990, p. 160
Carol Vogel, "A Sale of Pamela Harriman's Style and Taste, and the Result is a Proper Success," The New York Times, May 20, 1997, p. B3
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1874-1882, New Haven, Connecticut, 2006, vol. IV, no. 719, pp. 178, 401, illustrated

Catalogue Note

In the summer of 1878, John Singer Sargent left his studio in Paris’s bohemian Latin Quarter and traveled to the Mediterranean island of Capri, located in Italy just outside the Bay of Naples.  At the time of Sargent’s visit, Capri was still relatively unknown among European and American tourists, but was a popular destination for artists, attracted by its distinctive scenery and architecture.  Sargent was twenty-two and at the beginning of what would be a remarkably successful career, having just completed four years of instruction under the French portrait painter, Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran.  He took up residence at the Marina hotel, and for several weeks shared English artist Frank Hyde's studio space in the abandoned monastery of Santa Teresa.

Staircase in Capri conveys Sargent's interest in the contrast of tonal values and the effects of sunlight on architectural forms. As Erica Hirschler writes, "During his visit to Capri in 1878 and to North Africa in the winter of 1879-80, Sargent experimented with the geometry of architectural forms and with the play of light on white surfaces in a number of studies, but this spare and elegant composition is his most refined and abstract essay.  A long flight of stone steps rising steeply upwards is painted from a very low viewpoint, with the branches of green vines entwined on a pergola against slight splashes of bright blue sky visible at the top.  The shaft-like staircase is attenuated by the stark verticality of the design, and bright sunlight striking the flat, reflective surfaces makes sharp diagonal contrasts on the walls and throws patches of shadow onto the steps. The architecture occupies all but one segment of the picture space, making it essentially an arrangement in white, an astringent tonal exercise subtly registered in shades of pearl, silver and grey with hints of mauve and blue in the shadows.  The picture’s tonal radiance and its formal preoccupation with the handling of white on white anticipates Fumée d’ambre gris [Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts]" (Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond, eds., John Singer Sargent, Princeton, New Jersey, 1998, p. 71).

Staircase in Capri was first owned by Auguste Hirsch, a French artist with whom Sargent shared a studio in Paris in the late 1870s.  It was later acquired by Pamela Harriman, who served as the United States Ambassador to France in the mid-1990s. 

American Art

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New York