Lot 19
  • 19

Louis Abel-Truchet

125,000 - 175,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Louis Abel-Truchet
  • La fête forain, Place Pigalle
  • signed Abel Truchet and inscribed Paris (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 32 5/8 by 32 5/8 in.
  • 82.9 by 82.9 cm


Hammer Galleries, New York (until December 1960)
Sale: Christie's, New York, May 21, 1986, lot 66, illustrated
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, April 24, 2002, lot 100, illustrated
Acquired at the above sale

Catalogue Note

By the end of the nineteenth century, Paris witnessed a dramatic proliferation of concert halls, cabarets, cinemas, circuses and cafes, many of which were chronicled by artists such as Jean Béraud, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Georges Seurat.  Perhaps the most exhilarating entertainment for both the public and artists, however, was that of the fête forain, a large fair bustling with attractions, games and saltimbanques, or itinerant entertainers such as tight-rope walkers, acrobats, and unusual curiosities who traveled in covered wagons and performed spectacles along Parisian avenues.  In an 1897 issue of Figaro Illustré, one observer chronicled the Forains et Saltimbanques on the avenue of Neuilly saying: “Oh the fair of Neuilly… From Flobert shooting galleries to panoramas about Franco-Russian alliance, from snake-like ladies to Lapland dwarfs, from gunmen to fortune tellers, one can picturesquely kill one’s day without going bankrupt.  Long live the fair of Neuilly!” (as quoted in Phillip Dennis Cate, “The Cult of the Circus,” Barbara Stern Shapiro, ed., Pleasures of Paris, Daumier to Picasso, Boston, 1991, p. 40). 

In the present work, Abel-Truchet portrays an evening at la fête forain in the Place Pigalle, a public square at the foot of Montmarte surrounded by cafés and artist studios.  His use of bold colors and contours as well as his spontaneous brushwork captures the energy and excitement of the scene, and is a testament to the influence of Impressionism on his body of work. Just below a Ferris Wheel in the background whirls a colorful carousel, and in nearby stall number 30 stand a clown, a body-builder, two ballerinas, and a parrot. The enthusiastic crowd prismatically multiplies under a myriad of flickering lights, which showcase the awe-inspiring novelties of electricity and the gas lamp.  Perhaps the most arresting figures in this scene are the two unaccompanied, tightly corseted, fashionable women who parade through the foreground. Their thickly applied makeup suggests a penchant for artifice among the night’s visitors to the Place Pigalle and its surroundings, including the Moulin Rouge, just down the road.  Such chronicles of the amusements enjoyed by the French public at the turn of the century remain among the most distinguished compositions of Abel-Truchet’s career.