Lot 108
  • 108

Théodore Chassériau

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Théodore Chassériau
  • les deux femmes juives
  • signed and dated Th Chassériau 1851 lower left
  • oil on canvas
  • 32.7 by 25cm., 12¾ by 9¾in.


This condition report has been provided by Hamish Dewar, Hamish Dewar Ltd. Fine Art Conservation, 14 Masons Yard, Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6BU. Structural Condition The canvas would appear to have been lined and this is ensuring an even and secure structural support. There are some horizontal lines of craquelure in the red pigment of the skirt of the girl on the left of the composition which are stable and not visually distracting. Paint Surface The paint surface has an even varnish layer and minimal retouchings are visible under ultraviolet light. These are: 1) 3 very thin vertical lines, each approximatley 3 cms in length in the lower right corner beneath the figure of the woman in the centre of the composition, 2) small touches on the basket of the girl on the left of the composition and other small scattered spots. It is important to stress that these are of minimal size. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition and no further work is required.
"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.

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1851, Les Deux femmes juives is typical of the incidental scenes drawn from everyday life that captured Chassériau's imagination and which found expression in many of his best Algerian canvases. The painting relates to the oil Deux jeunes juives de Constantine berçant un enfant (fig. 1) of the same year, and appears to depict the same models. 

Chassériau produced a number of paintings and drawings depicting Algerian Jewesses in traditional costume (fig. 2). Indeed, depictions of Jewish women were central to much of his work after the Algerian sojourn. 'Chassériau's notes accompanying the drawings done in Algiers testify to his interest in capturing the distinct look of the [Jewish] woman's clothing – its mixture of sparkling hues and gold and silver embroidery – and, specifically, the conical headdress with trailing veils traditionally worn by Algerian Jews. Chassériau describes this type of head covering, called a terrada: the hair is twisted together with a piece of multicoloured silk and an attached red ribbon that falls to the floor.' (Théodore Chassériau, the Unknown Romantic, Evreux, 2002, p. 297). In the present work both women wear this tall cone-shaped hat which identifies them as native Algerian Jewesses.

Judaism has a long history in Algeria. It has been present there at least since late Roman times; the early Arab chroniclers suggest that at least some Berber tribes were converted to Judaism before Islam's arrival, notably that of Queen Kahina. The country's Jewish community was substantially increased following the Reconquista, when the Spanish Inquisition expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. Together with the Moors, they thronged to the ports of North Africa, forming large communities in places such as Algiers, Oran, Constantine and Blida.

In its reference to picturesque details of clothing and in its evocation of a community of North African Jews, Les Deux femmes juives develops themes explored by Delacroix. The present work is particularly reminiscent of Delacroix's depictions of the daily lives of North African women. As the first European artist to penetrate North African culture, Delacroix introduced a whole new iconography to western art, encompassing the region's architecture, landscapes and costumes, but also the mores of its people, which would influence generations of artists to come, and clearly inspired Chassériau.

Fig. 1:, Théodore Chassériau, Deux jeunes juives de Constantine berçant un enfant, 1851, oil on canvas, sold Sotheby's New York, 23 October 1990, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fig. 2: Théodore Chassériau, Femmes juives au balcon, 1849, oil on wood, Musée du Louvre, Paris