Lot 404
  • 404

Kees van Dongen

300,000 - 400,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Kees van Dongen
  • L'Habit de danseuse
  • Signed van Dongen (lower left); inscribed Trage de bailarina Madrid and dated 1910 (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 21 5/8 by 18 1/8 in.
  • 54.9 by 46 cm


O'Hana Gallery, London
Private Collection, Europe (and sold: Sotheby's, London, March 30, 1988, lot 151)
Private Collection, Netherlands (acquired at the above sale)

Catalogue Note

L’Habit de danseuse was painted approximately five years after the pivotal 1905 exhibition at the Salon d’Automne, the debut of the Fauve movement, and its composition exhibits many of the distinctive traits that characterized van Dongen’s unique embrace of this groundbreaking style. Unlike the more joyful and innocent visions of colleagues such as Matisse, van Dongen’s paintings of women are mediated through his impressions of Parisian night-life and the artificial lighting of bars and concert halls, rather than in natural open spaces. In the present work, the decadent milieu is revealed in the sensuous curvature of the female body and the pallor of exposed skin, not to mention the atmospheric rendering of the interior backdrop.

Louis Vauxcelles, the influential French art critic, proclaimed van Dongen as “the historian of girls of the streets, of the dregs, of all the rabble of corrupt females and their crapulous pimps” (quoted in Gaston Diehl, Van Dongen, Milan, n.d., p. 87), and behind the air of decadence that pervades this work is a streak of Dutch realism that remained ever present in the artist’s work. The sulphurous yellows and lurid greens are hallmarks of his mature paintings, and the troubling sensuality that is already overt in this painting would become even more pronounced. In his prologue to his December 1911 exhibition, van Dongen asserted that “a certain immodesty is truly a virtue, as is the absence of respect for many respectable things” (quoted in ibid., p. 87). This work is underpinned by a strange combination of baudelairism and naïveté that captures both the exotic and the sordid nature of the bohemian world he inhabited.