Private collection, England Acquired by the grandfather of the present owners
I.Grabar and I.Zilbershtein, Repin. Khudozhestvennoe nasledstvo, vol.1, Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1948, p.121 illustrated b/w; p.582 listed
Repin's stint in Paris on a travel scholarship from the Academy (1873-76) was an exhilarating period in his career: ‘I am working like never before’, he wrote soon after his arrival, ‘never have so many ideas flooded my mind; there is no time to separate the wheat from the chaff – the climate is such that everyone is working prolifically’ (cited in Repin, vol.1, 1948, p.119). His creative fervour was soon tempered by financial constraints: 'models are terribly expensive in Paris, 10 francs per session', which resulted in the series of swiftly executed studies to which the present lot belongs.
Scholars believe that Repin sold the smaller Paris-period works locally soon after their execution, using these funds to supplement his modest scholarship. Indeed, at least one Parisian dealer, Duboile, urged the artist to sell through his gallery rather than sending his work back to Russia. In 1948 Grabar and Zilbershtein located one such work, this very portrait, in a private collection in London and published it for the first time in their monograph. The authors proposed that it was the subject of the anecdote in Repin's letter dated 25 April 1875: ‘I was recently visited by an English gentleman with a request to contribute to a charitable cause. I gave him the poor head and then, lo and behold, I was acknowledged in Les Temps alongside the most prominent artists of the day. The head was met with critical acclaim and it was said of it that it was painted très vigoreux, très nerveux, which made me laugh very much’ (ibid, p.120). The spelling of the signature with an extra 'n' is typical of Repin's early Parisian works and is found on two further canvases from 1873, Storm on the Volga (State Russian Museum) and The Beggar (Velles) (Irkutsk Regional Museum of Fine Arts).
Original canvas with losses to the corners and tacking edges. The canvas is buckling in the lower left corner. A small strip of adhesive tape is attached to the left of the bottom tacking edge. There are abrasions with associated paint along all four edges. Visible throughout the composition is a fine pattern of craquelure. There is a scratch with minor paint loss at the upper right edge as well as some minor flecks of paint loss in places. There is a tiny pin hole in the top left. Stretcher bar marks are visible along the edges and horizontally across the composition. There is a layer of surface dirt. Inspection under UV light reveals a heavily discoloured varnish layer, an area of retouching to the top left and minor scattered retouching below the ruff and elsewhere. Held in a gold-coloured wooden frame. Unexamined out of frame. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."