Lot 66
  • 66

Frederick Arthur Bridgman

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Frederick Arthur Bridgman
  • The Procession of the Bull Apis
  • signed F. A. Bridgman and dated 1879 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 40 by 70 in.
  • 101.6 by 177.8 cm


Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (acquired from the artist in 1880 and sold, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, June 7, 1951, lot 287)
Renaissance Galleries
Daniel B. Grossman Collection, New York
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, May 24, 1988, lot 41, illustrated
Private Collector, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Acquired in circa 2000


Paris, Salon, 1879, no. 416
New York, Mr. Avery's Gallery; Boston, Williams and Everett, Exhibition of Bridgman's Three Archeological Paintings, 1880


Edward Strahan, ed., The Art Treasures of America, Philadelphia, 1879, vol. I, illustrated opp. p. 3; in the 1977 facsimile edition, vol. I, illustrated following p. 10
“Frederick Arthur Bridgman,” The Art Amateur: a Monthly Journal Devoted to the Art of the Household, vol. 40, no. 4 (March 1899), p. 77.
Ilene Susan Fort, Frederick Arthur Bridgman and the American fascination with the exotic Near East, Ph.D. diss., City University of New York, 1990, pp.153-4, 156, 158, 165, 170, 175, 461, illustrated fig. 67
Gerald M. Ackerman, American Orientalists, Paris, 1994, p. 48, illustrated opposite
Herman de Meulenaere with Patrick and Viviane Berko, Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Painting, n.p. 1992, p. 109, illustrated pp. 110-1, detail as cover


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting has an old, thin, glue lining, which is nicely supporting the paint layer. The painting is clean and does not appear to be abraded or damaged. The thinner, darker colors in some areas of the background show a few cracks, but hardly any retouches have been applied. The texture of the paint is very healthy. Some pentimenti and cracking in and around the dancing girl has been carefully retouched. A few areas around the figures carrying the ceremonial boat have also been retouched. The work should be hung in its current condition.
"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

The first of Bridgman’s paintings to enter a public collection in America, and the last major historical genre painting he would create for nearly a decade, The Procession of the Bull Apis is regarded as one of the artist’s most important early works.  Bridgman’s archaeological precision and exotic subject matter, inspired by numerous trips to Egypt and North Africa and a profound devotion to scholarly research, immediately compelled comparisons to the Orientalist paintings of Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), Bridgman’s teacher and mentor in Paris in the 1860s.  This favorable reception encouraged Bridgman to expand the range of his artistic ventures, and focus almost exclusively on the visual and written documentation of modern daily life in the East.  In later years, however, the artist would return to the themes of Apis, creating several historical reconstructions and processional scenes directly influenced by this pioneering work.

The cavernous setting for this hallowed promenade is likely based on Bridgman’s sketches of Ptolemaic temples in Egypt, such as those at Dendera and Philae, and in particular, the temple of Horus at Edfou, one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman temples from this period.  (The cult of the Apis bull, with all its flowered festivals and ritualistic sacrifices, was in fact centered at Memphis, several hundred miles from this Upper Egyptian scene.)  On the columns, Ptolemaic cartouches and hieroglyphs are visible; though most are indecipherable, others in the composition, such as those adorning the garments of the high priest, clearly bear the name of one of the bull’s aspects, the god Osiris.  The religious furniture that Bridgman includes recalls various objects in American and European museums and collections: the naos, atop a solar bark and draped with a cloth bearing figures of the goddess Ma’at, resembles descriptions provided to the artist by Samuel Birch, Keeper of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum.  Bridgman’s diligent study of contemporary scholarly publications, including John Gardner Wilkinson’s Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians (1837), may also have supplied him with information for this work, particularly with regard to the canopic chest at left.  The presence of this and other distinctly funerary pieces, accurately rendered but incongruous in the scene, are a reminder of the composite nature of even the most persuasive of Bridgman’s Orientalist works.

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