Lot 57
  • 57

Kees van Dongen

3,500,000 - 5,500,000 USD
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  • Kees van Dongen
  • Anita (La Gitane apprivoisée)
  • Signed Van Dongen (upper right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 39 3/8 by 31 7/8 in.
  • 100 by 81 cm


Sam Salz, Inc., New York (acquired from the artist)

Ronnie and Joseph S. Wohl, USA (acquired from the above)

Acquired in 2000 by the present owner


(possibly) Odessa, Salon 2, International Art Exhibition, 1909-10, no. 167 (titled Anita Pati)

Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Van Dongen, 1942, no. 41 (titled Le Corset rouge)

Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Van Dongen, 1949, no. 63 (titled Le Corset rouge and as dating from 1911)

New York, Wildenstein & Co., Paris Cafés: Their Role in the Birth of Modern Art, 1985, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Louis Chaumeil, Van Dongen: l'homme et l'artiste, la vie et l'oeuvre, Geneva, 1967, no. 51, illustrated pl. 51


Very good condition. The canvas is lined. Under UV light, there are a few old dots of retouching in the background and along the edges to address frame abrasion, and a stroke in the hair and to the left of the figure. The colors are fresh, and the surface bears a rich impasto that is in very good condition.
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

The scandalous nudes that van Dongen painted following his Fauve debut solidified his reputation as the grand provocateur among the avant garde. Van Dongen's presentation of his nude models, with their unabashed sexuality caused a sensation among critics of the day, who could not deny their attraction to these pictures in spite of the moral outrage they provoked.  "The women he paints are for the most part horrible things," reads a New York Times review for van Dongen's solo show at Kahnweiler in 1908, "and yet inspire with such melancholy beauty that the initiated gaze in rapture for hours at a time" (quoted in Arouna D'Souza, "Deformation and Seduction: van Dongen's Images of Women," van Dongen (exhibition catalogue), The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 2008,  p. 179).

The model for this striking portrait was Anita la Bohémienne, a dancer van Dongen met at a club in Pigalle. Provocatively baring her breasts, she smiles in a forthright manner at the spectator, seemingly anything but “apprivoisée” (tamed).  Van Dongen's experience working with his fellow artists at the Bateau Lavoir, the famous dilapidated studio in Montmartre, provided him access to some of the most flamboyant figures in the Parisian demi-monde.  Dancers, cabaret performers and members of the Cirque Médrano were frequent models at his studio, and the present composition exemplifies the free-spirited, joie de vivre that prevailed during these sittings.

By the time he painted the present picture, van Dongen had evolved a style that had many features in common with the Fauvism of Matisse although, as John Elderfield has observed, there were significant differences. “He, too had begun his modernist alignment under the aegis of Impressionism, showing works in this style in his one-man show at Vollard’s in 1904. He also passed through a Neo-Impressionist phase. By 1905, he had found his way into a loose impromptu style analogous to the mixed technique Fauvism of the Matisse circle, especially in his painting of nudes. But the main direction of his art was fast becoming geared to the representation of subjects different of those of most of the other Fauves. Van Dongen’s painting of friends and colleagues and of the nightlife of Montmartre and of similar venues draw directly upon the example of Toulouse-Lautrec, though admitting newly heightened and improvisational relationships of color” (John Elderfield, The “Wild Beasts,” Fauvism and its Affinities, New York, 1976, p. 68).

When the present work was painted, critics wrote of how van Dongen employed a range of colors in his palette that breathe life into his figures.  In their catalogue essay for the artist's exhibition in 1908 at Bernheim-Jeune, Marius and Ary Leblond described his technique in vivid detail:  "The artist kneads the substance of the flesh with those greens produced in silvered daylight, yellow outlines, brought to life by colors that vibrate in florescent waves, but the crimson-and-green-tinged faces, but the flushed and battered cheeks, but the swollen lips enveloped in flesh-toned light, put their suggestion of mystery into a fully carnal light.  And in this accumulation of flesh we find affirmed a sculptural grandeur that comes from the method of posing the nudes as if completely at ease, of suggesting through this play with colour a sensual illumination of the body undressed by light itself" (reprinted in A. D'Souza, op. cit., p. 181).