Lot 98
  • 98

Albert Edelfelt

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  • Albert Edelfelt
  • Chez L'Artiste (Les Gravures)
  • signed A EDELFELT and dated 1881 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas


Reitlinger, Paris
M. Leroux (acquired from the above, May 1888)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, June 28, 1999, lot 29, illustrated
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Salon, 1881, no. 840


Ny Illusterad Tidning, November 19, 1881, p. 459, illustrated
Hufvudstadsbladet, June 15 and 20, 1881
Morgonbladet, June 16, 1881
Albert Edelfelt, Resor och Intryck (letters), Helsinki, 1921, pp. 22, 25, 40, 41, and 101
Bertel Hintze, Albert Edelfelt, Helsinki, 1942, vol. III, no. 159, p. 41

Catalogue Note

Painted between January and March 1881.

Together with Helene Sofia Schjerfbeck, Albert Edelfelt is today one of the most well-known Finnish artists. Edelfelt was born into a Swedish-speaking aristocratic family and educated at the Imperial University in Helsinki.  He was early on frustrated by the unprogressive atmosphere of the university and left in 1873 to enroll in the Antwerp Academy of Art.  He studied history painting there for six months before moving to Paris in 1874. Paris was the premiere destination for artists all over the world due to its position as the most culturally and artistically progressive city at the end of the nineteenth century. Edelfelt was immediately drawn to the Parisian lifestyle and encouraged by the endless opportunities personally and professionally. Not only did the extensive network of museums, galleries and dealers provide constant stimulation for the aspiring artist, but the wealthy, sophisticated Parisians proved a ready clientele. Concurrent with his move from the conservative city of Antwerp to the cosmopolitan French capital, was Edelfelt's turn away from history painting toward painting scenes of contemporary life. Edelfelt went on to become the leading proponent of Finnish Realism and his native country's most important cultural export of the 19th century.

Chez l'artiste is a paean to the belle époque culture Edelfelt so deeply admired.  By the late 19th century, France was enjoying the spoils of the 1860s economic boom and money flowed freely into the newly emerging middle class. As members of the bourgeoisie rose in rank in society, they actively filled their homes with social and cultural signifiers to communicate their cosmopolitan-mindedness. Artists, the arbiters of taste and fashion, also participated in this collective consumption of "things," and in Chez l'artiste Edelfelt effectively captures the current vogue of japonisme and the prevailing urge toward projecting sophistication and intellectual curiosity. A beautiful and fashionable young lady, Edelfelt's mistress, Virginie, sorts bemusedly through an artist's collection of prints, a Japanese fan resting casually on her lap. Edelfelt's latest chef-d'oeuvre sits half-concealed on his easel at the right; yet our eye is drawn to Virginie's magnificent dress whose frothy trimmings are the central focus of the composition.  Tellingly, this costume was lent by Edelfelt's friend, Princess Troubetskoy, specifically for the Chez l'artiste sitting. 

Edelfelt is known to have painted a half-sized replica of Chez l'artiste in 1881, commissioned by Bulla on behalf of a New York dealer, probably Knoedler (see Hintze 1942, no. 160).  The same year, his original was engraved by Charles Baude and photographed by Michelez.