PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Built between 1806 and 1836, the Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon I and based on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Following damage in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the Arch underwent restoration work in the mid 1870s (fig. 1). In his celebrated views of Paris at this time, De Nittis was particularly drawn to subjects which represented the city reborn, rising Phoenix-like from its troubled recent past. Painted the same year as the present work, La Place des Pyramides juxtaposes Frémiet's new gilded bronze sculpture of Joan of Arc against the reconstruction of the west wing of the Louvre, following arson during the Commune of 1871 (fig. 2).
In a letter to De Nittis dated 1 January 1875, the Paris dealer Tedesco refers to a forthcoming composition depicting the Arc de Triomphe, probably the present work, to be exhibited either at that year's Cercle des Mirlitons or Salon and to be sold to the London dealer Algernon Moses Marsden. After De Nittis broke off his contract with Goupil the previous year, this introduction to Marsden marked a turning point in his career, leading in turn to the artist's introduction to the British banker Kaye Knowles. In 1879 Marsden organised a one-man-show on De Nittis in London, in which the present work was shown.
De Nittis trained at the Accademia in Naples, and exhibited with the Macchiaioli in Florence in 1867, arriving in Paris soon afterwards to study under Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He remained in France for the rest of his career, first exhibiting at the Salon of 1869, and continuing to do so throughout the 1870s and 1880s. He was closely associated with the Impressionists, becoming a close friend of Edgar Degas, who invited him to participate in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.
Known as Avenue de l'Impératrice under Napoleon III, the Avenue Foch was briefly named Avenue Général-Uhrich between 1870-75, before being renamed Avenue du Bois de Boulogne until 1929. De Nittis lived at no. 64 from 1871 onwards.
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