LONDON – This masterpiece by Alfred De Dreux hung in the home of the present owners for over 150 years, apparently unseen by the public. Until now, it was known only from a large lithograph published by Goupil & Cie.
De Dreux was known for his depictions of the horse in all its powerful energy and spiritual intensity, just as Gericault had been before him with whom De Dreux studied. His uncle, the painter, Pierre-Joseph Dedreux-Dorcy was a close friend of Gericault and the buyer of his The Raft of the Medusa, in the Musée du Louvre on the artist’s death, when the French state initially refused to raise their offer.
ALFRED DE DREUX, L’ENTRÉE AU BOIS, CIRCA 1842–45. ESTIMATE: £300,000–500,000.
L’Entrée au bois, painted at the height of De Dreux’s career, is as much a portrait of the horses as of the riders themselves. It bristles with the animals’ steely energy, as De Dreux brilliantly captures the light and textures of the horses’ coats, the woman’s elegantly flowing dress, and the verdure of the luscious setting.
In 1842, De Dreux received his first official commission from the French State, for the Portrait équestre du duc Ferdinand d’Orléans, which was commissioned for Versailles, but can now be found in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. In 1844, the artist joined King Louis-Philippe’s state visit to London and executed a composition depicting Queen Victoria and the ‘Roi des Français’ riding side-by-side in the park of Windsor Castle. Later, during the 1850s De Dreux painted three large portraits of Napoleon III, all now also in major French museums. L’Entrée au bois clearly bears comparison to the stature of these official portraits, but as depiction of a romantic tryst of monumental dimensions it is unique among his works.