Lot 18
  • 18

Jean Béraud

Estimate
600,000 - 800,000 USD
Sold
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Description

  • Jean Béraud
  • Après l'office à l'église de la Sainte Trinité, Noël 1890
  • signed Jean Béraud (lower right)
  • oil on panel
  • 19 7/8 by 26 1/2 in.
  • 50.5 by 67.3 cm

Provenance

James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (acquired directly from the artist)
Donated from the above in 1902

Exhibited

Château de Blérancourt, Musée national de la Coopération franco-américaine, 1853-1947. Les Américains et la Légion d’honneur, 1993, no. 14
Paris, Musée Carnavalet, on extended loan, 2000-2015

Literature

The Paris Herald, Christmas issue, 1901, illustrated
One Hundered Years of American Work and Worship in Paris, Paris, 1950, illustrated
Patrick Offenstadt, Jean Béraud 1849-1935, The Belle Époque: A Dream of Times Gone By, catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1999, p. 138, no. 124, illustrated 
Cameron Allen, The History of the American Pro-Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris (1815-1980), Bloomington, Indiana, 2012, p. 499-500

 

Catalogue Note

Jean Béraud’s Après l'office à l'église de la Sainte Trinité, Noël, 1890, depicts elegant parishioners leaving the Church of the Holy Trinity, now known as The American Cathedral in Paris, on Christmas day. Men sport their fine coats and top hats, children are smartly dressed and women are adorned in furs and elaborate chapeaus with lace veils, their long dresses in hues of green and red. The parishioners’ fashions and the carriages and drivers are punctuated with brilliant strokes of color, all serving to draw the viewer’s eye to the two flags hanging over the church’s entrance, sister ensigns that act as a clear and poignant symbol of Franco-American friendship.  

The Cathedral has a long history and played an important cultural role for Americans in Paris. In the 1870s, Dr. John B. Morgan, a cousin of J. P. Morgan, became Rector of Holy Trinity Parish in Paris and began a successful fundraising campaign for the church’s expansion and the construction of what is now known as The American Cathedral in Paris on Avenue George V (then called Avenue d'Alma). The church was consecrated on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1886, coinciding with the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York and reinforcing cultural alliances between France and the United States. The Cathedral’s iconic tower, among the tallest in Paris, was constructed in 1909, after the present work was painted.

Après l'office à l'église de la Sainte Trinité, Noël, 1890 was commissioned by the American businessman, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., one of many influential Cathedral parishioners (a significant collection of paintings by Béraud, previously owned by parishioner Margaret Thompson Biddle, were sold in these rooms in May 2016). Bennett was the publisher of the New York Herald, the flagship newspaper founded by his father. In 1877, Bennett settled in France and launched the European edition of the newspaper, what is now known as the International Herald Tribune. Promoting cross-cultural friendship was likely Bennett’s objective for the work, which he subsequently illustrated on the front page of the New York Herald’s Christmas edition in 1901 and donated to the Cathedral in 1902.  It is very possible that many of members of the parish can be identified in the painting, although no known documentation exists. 

As the popular chronicler of contemporary Parisian life, Béraud was the perfect choice to paint this winter morning in Paris.  Intrigued by all aspects of la vie parisienne, Béraud was its scrupulous and devoted observer; the quintessential chronicler of Belle Époque Paris. Following the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), Béraud abandoned previous plans to become a lawyer, and instead studied portraiture with a leading artist of the Third Republic, Léon Bonnat. Emulating Bonnat's choice of subject, Béraud painted portraits of women and children, as well as genre images of Italian peasant women. The artist began to branch out from portraiture around 1875, developing an interest in representing modern life in Paris. The spectacle of public spaces was a popular subject for French artists in the nineteenth century. Haussmannisation (1852-1870) – the urban planning commissioned by Napoleon III and lead by the Baron George Eugène Haussmann – introduced a public element to private life through wide boulevards for transportation and strolling; the American Cathedral is on the wide Avenue George V, just a few blocks south of the Champs Élysées. In showing members of different social strata mingling in these newly accessible public settings, artists such as Béraud could capture the modernization of Paris through the actions, dress, and appearances of its inhabitants. 

The painting remained at the Cathedral until 2000, after which time it was lent to the Musée Carnavalet, sharing wall space with many of Béraud’s most iconic works and providing an additional glimpse of Parisian life at this colorful and exciting time in the country’s history.

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