Lot 49
  • 49

Rudolf Ernst

450,000 - 550,000 USD
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  • Rudolf Ernst
  • A Hard Bargain
  • signed R. Ernst (lower right)

  • oil on panel
  • 25 1/4 by 32 in.
  • 64.3 by 81.3 cm


A. D. Casseres, London
E. D. Gooderham, Toronto (acquired from the above in 1926)
Cooling Galleries, Toronto
Marshall Field, Chicago
Private Collector, St. Paul, Minnesota (acquired from the above in 1963)
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, October 24, 2006, lot 38, illustrated
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting is in excellent condition. It is painted on a mahogany panel which is unbroken and flat, with a very stable paint layer. There is a small scratch in the varnish at the top of the forehead of the kneeling figure wearing a fez. Other than this the painting seems to be clean and varnished and there is no restoration visible either to the naked eye or under ultraviolet light. The condition is extremely good.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

After studying at the Vienna Academy, of which his father, an architectural painter, was a member, Ernst settled in Paris in 1876.  From there he traveled throughout North Africa and the Middle East.  By 1885, Ernst was exhibiting a variety of Orientalist pictures, based in part upon the numerous sketches, photographs, and souvenirs he had accumulated during his travels. Despite his first-hand knowledge of many of the subjects he painted, and his abundant library of images and objects, Ernst often looked elsewhere for his compositional inspiration.  (Indeed, the international expositions that took place in Vienna and Paris between 1867 and 1900, many of which featured Islamic art and architectural replicas, were favorite "study sites" of the artist.)  The result of this eclectic education is a series of pictures in which individual details are faultlessly executed, but in which Ernst's imaginative energies are also at play.  In A Hard Bargain, a picture filled with Ernst's favorite still-lifes and decorative motifs, a trio of smartly dressed men chooses the unlikely surface of a niche prayer rug on which to count their coins.  Their absorption in the matter parallels the interest that audiences have long had in Ernst's work: The technical brilliance, creative interpretations, and unresolved narratives within Ernst's paintings have made them some of Orientalism's most coveted images.


This catalogue note was written by Dr. Emily M. Weeks.