Lot 54
  • 54

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Danseuse en pied vue de dos
  • Signed T.H. Lautrec and dated 90 (lower left)
  • Oil on board
  • 26 3/4 by 20 1/4 in.
  • 68 by 51.5 cm


Rémy Couzinet, Toulouse & Corbeil

Lucie Camus, Corbeil (a gift from the above)

Pestel-Debord, née Rainaud (a gift from the above in 1953)

Private Collection


Tokyo, Ginza Matsuzakaya, and elsewhere, Le Centenaire de l'Impressionnisme, 1974, no. 64, illustrated in the catalogue

Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Cinco siglos de arte francés, 1977, no. 52, illustrated in the catalogue

Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Toulouse-Lautrec. Das gesamte graphische Werk, Bildstudien und Gemälde, 2005, no. XI, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Portland, Oregon, Portland Art Museum, The Dancer: Degas, Forain, and Toulouse-Lautrec, 2008, illustrated in color in the catalogue 


Pierre Huisman &  M.G. Dortu, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Milan, 1971, illustrated in color p. 35



Very good condition. The gray board support is stable and bears a surface abrasion at the top-center edge. The medium is fresh and undisturbed.
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.

Catalogue Note

Toulouse-Lautrec's beautiful rendering of a ballerina evidences his mastery as a draughtsman and figure painter.  The image is clearly indebted to the many depictions of ballet dancers by Lautrec's contemporary, Edgar Degas (fig. 2).  His approach to the subject, however, is much more graphically precise, evidencing his agility with line drawings. The present picture relates to several other images of ballerinas that Lautrec painted around this time (fig. 3), when he was experimenting with finding his own interpretation of the beloved subject of the elder Degas. 

In an essay on Lautrec's indebtedness to Degas, Mary Weaver Chapin wrote: “These ballerina paintings can be seen as a bridge between Lautrec's reliance on the artistic models of Degas and Forain and the discovery of his own artistic voice, technique and subject.  His interest in the individuality of each dancer, which would come to define his mature work — and which would help the stars in their quest for celebrity — is already becoming evident:  taking the conventional subject of the ballerina and placing her in equivocal surrounds and poses, he forces his viewers to question their initial assumptions  —  to look closer.  He also introduces the sexual status of the dancer and the mobility between performer and prostitute.  These elements would reach their greatest expression in his paintings and prints of dance performers in the 1890s, works that cemented his reputation and communicated a new vision of the dancer in fin de siècle Paris”(Mary W. Chapin, The Dancer: Degas, Forain, and Toulouse-Lautrecop. cit., p. 225).

Like many of Lautrec's most accomplished works from this period, the present painting was rendered with diluted oil paint, known as peinture à l'essence, to create the feathery appearance of  pastel.  Lautrec's technique here was distinctly his own, as Gale Murray explains in her monograph of the artist:  "[The artist] was now evolving a distinctive way of applying paint thinly in long, striated brush strokes. He began also to layer his pigments, and whether he was painting on canvas primed with white ground or directly onto cardboard, he often left areas of the support exposed to function positively as 'colour.' By thinning his oil paints with turpentine (peinture à l'essence), he mixed a less viscous, matte finish, giving an appearance more commonly associated with drawing or pastel than painting. He was, in effect, consolidating his personal variation of the Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist touch — his 'streak'— with his own adaptation in oil paints, first of Degas’s manner of applying pastel, and second, of the streaky drawing in illustrations by popular artists such as Steinlen, Forain, and Raffaëlli" (Gale Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Formative Years, 1878-1891, Oxford, 1991, p. 177).

The first owner of Danseuse en pied vue de dos was Rémy Couzinet, the president of the board of directors of a popular and influential radical-socialist daily in Toulouse, La Dépêche.  The widowed Couzinet, who was from the Midi-Pyrénées region of France, must have purchased the picture soon after it was completed, and he presented it to his much younger fiancée, Lucie Camus, the principal of a girls’ school in Corbeil.  An ailing Couzinet died before the couple could be married, and Mademoiselle Camus kept the painting all of her life, bequeathing it to a grandniece.