Lot 59
  • 59

Vincent van Gogh

5,000,000 - 7,000,000 USD
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  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Eglogue en Provence - un couple d'amoureux
  • Oil on Canvas
  • 12 3/4 by 9 in.
  • 32.5 by 23 cm


Joseph M. Ginoux & Marie Ginoux-Julien, Arles (1898, probably acquired from the artist)

Henri Bernstein, Paris (sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 8, 1911, lot 29)

Bernheim-Jeune, Paris

Jos. Hessel, Paris

Galerie Vildrac, Paris

Hermann Lie, Oslo

J.E. Werenskiold, Lysaker, (1968)

Sale: Sotheby's, London, March 25, 1986, lot 13

Private Collection (purchased at the above sale and sold: Sotheby’s, London, June 26, 2001, lot 10)

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)

Acquired from the above


Jakob-Baart de la Faille, L’oeuvre de Vincent Van Gogh, Catalogue Raisonné, Paris & Brussels, 1928, vol. I, no. 544, catalogued p. 155; vol. II, no. 544, illustrated pl. CXLIX

Willem Scherjon & W. Jos de Gruyter, Vincent Van Gogh’s Great Period, Amsterdam, 1937, Arles no. 181

Jakob-Baart de la Faille, Vincent Van Gogh, Paris, 1939, no. 548, illustrated p. 385

The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, London, 1958, vol. II, letter no. 470, mentioned p. 534; vol. III, letter no. B2[2], mentioned p. 477

Jakob-Baart de la Faille, The Works of Vincent Van Gogh. His Paintings and Drawings, London, 1970, no. F544, illustrated p. 230

Paolo Lecaldano, Tout l’oeuvre peint de Van Gogh, 1888-1890, Paris, 1971, no. 491, illustrated p. 205

Jan Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, New York, 1977, no. 1369, illustrated p. 309

Bruce Bernard, ed., Vincent by Himself, London, 1985, illustrated in color p. 219

Ingo F. Walther & Rainer Metzger, Vincent van Gogh, Sämtliche Gemälde, Cologne, 1989, vol. II, illustrated in color p. 315

Jan Hulsker, The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam, 1996, no. 1369, illustrated p. 309

Ingo F. Walther & Rainer Metzger, Vincent van Gogh. The Complete Paintings, Cologne, 2001, illustrated in color p. 315

Hans Luijten, Van Gogh and Love, Amsterdam, 2007, detail illustrated in color on the cover

Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten & Nienke Bakker, eds., Vincent van Gogh, Painted with Words: The Letters to Emile Bernard, New York, 2008, illustrated in color p. 136

Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York & Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2008-09, no. 98, illustrated in color p. 137

Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten & Nienke Bakker, eds., Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, New York, 2009, vol. 4, illustrated in color pp. 29, 30 & 33; mentioned in letter no. 587, p. 28 and in a letter no. 588, p. 30; vol. 6, listed p. 130


The canvas is lined. The artist appears to have made revisions and additions to the canvas, which presumably was not stretched at the time the artist painted the composition. Following its completion, the canvas was lined and the upper-right corner was restored. Under UV, areas in the dress and in the lower center beneath the feet of the figures fluoresce from restoration, as do a few other dots that are visible on the right side in the path and immediately to the left of the male figure’s left leg. There are also a few spots of restoration around the edges, where the artist's tackiing holes would have been. The paint layer is stable, well-textured and in 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

Painted in March 1888, the month after van Gogh arrived in Arles, the present work is an intimate depiction of two lovers walking along the bank of a river. When the weather improved in Arles during March of 1888, van Gogh began to work outdoors, concentrating in particular on a series of drawbridge pictures (fig. 1). In one of them he wanted to incorporate the brilliant disk of the sun. He wrote about this project to his friend, the painter Emile Bernard on March 18 (fig. 2): "At the top of this letter I’m sending you a little croquis of a study that’s preoccupying me as to how to make something of it – sailors coming back with their sweethearts towards the town, which projects the strange silhouette of its drawbridge against a huge yellow sun" (quoted in Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten & Nienke Bakker, eds., op. cit., 2009, letter no. 587, p. 28). And again to his brother Theo several days later, on March 21 or 22 he wrote: "Rain and wind these past few days, I've worked at home on the study of which I’ve made a croquis in Bernard's letter. My aim was to give it colours like stained glass, and a design of solid outlines" (ibid., letter no. 588, p. 30).

In the sketch incorporated in the letter to Bernard, van Gogh indicated the colors he planned to apply to the oil, probably taking into account the color theories that played an important role in his oeuvre. The colors used in Eglogue en Provence indeed follow those indicated in the sketch, with the exception of the ochre path which was in the sketch indicated as ‘rose’. In the artist's original conception of the scene, the lovers would have been portrayed walking along the canal that runs from Port-du-Bouc to Arles, towards the Pont de Langlois, in a similar compositional format to the detailed drawing Le Pont de Langlois from March 1888 (fig. 5). Located just south of Arles, the bridge, with its technical finesse and dynamic structure, had so fascinated the artist during the spring, that he depicted it in several oils and drawings. However, he deemed his attempt at this full scene in oil, which he had described in the letters, to be unsuccessful; the section of the canvas that pleased him was the sailor and his sweetheart walking embraced along the canal, which forms the present work.

The luminous, highly contrasted palette of Eglogue en Provence is characteristic of Van Gogh’s paintings executed in Arles, and reflects not only the new quality of light he encountered in the South of France, but also his fascination with Japanese prints. As Ingo F. Walther and Rainer Metzger wrote: "Van Gogh was looking for Japan in the south. And he found it, too – abstracting ever more powerfully from the circumstances of his own existence and longing for that oriental paradise with the same fervour as he expressed in his colours. The months leading up to his breakdown were informed by the imagined conception of that better world promised by Japan: van Gogh was reaching for a utopia, trying to make it concrete reality by painting it … Later he was to recall the childlike anticipation that had seized hold of him in rueful tones: 'I can still remember vividly how excited I became that winter when travelling from Paris to Arles. How I was constantly on the lookout to see if we had reached Japan yet' … His Japanese notions continued to hold him in thrall for the time being: 'I don’t need any Japanese prints', he wrote to his sister (in Letter W7), 'because I always say that I am in Japan right here. And that I therefore only have to open my eyes and paint whatever is in front of my nose and makes an impression on me.'" (I. F. Walther & R. Metzer, op. cit., 2001, pp. 321-325).

Six months later, van Gogh was to paint a number of important works depicting couples and lovers in the public gardens at Arles (figs. 3,4), in an area known as the Jardin du poète. The present painting prefigures the artist's absorption in the study of those figures in a natural setting, echoing the loneliness of the 'outsider' and the artist, yet here the delightfully vibrant coloration - with the bold reds of the woman's shawl and skirt and the sky blues of the man's shirt - imbues the scene with great positivity and warmth.

The term eglogue in the title denotes a rural idyll, deriving from a Classical form used by the ancient Roman poet Virgil, among others. The lovers here act as two rhyming forms, two bold vertical presences between the lush green diagonals of the water and the grass and set against the vibrant ochre of the path. Eglogue en Provence - un couple d'amoureux is an enduring image of love and intimacy vibrantly rendered in van Gogh's distinctive and newly matured style.

According to recent findings of the Van Gogh Museum, "new information has been found and it points out that the [present] painting belonged in 1898 to Joseph M. Ginoux (1835-1906) and Marie Ginoux-Julien (1848-1911), owners of the 'Café de la gare' in Arles at 30 Place Lamartine. Van Gogh rented a room in their café and restaurant between May and September 1888, and he became friendly with especially Marie. The Ginoux owned many paintings by Van Gogh, and one of his works in their collection was according to a note of 1898 ‘Marin et sa femme au bord de la mer'’, as the present work was known at the time." (Louis van Tilborgh, ‘Art historical report’ by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, which accompanies the present work). The first known public appearance of Eglogue en Provence was at auction at Hôtel Drouot in Paris in 1911. Its owner at the time was the French playwright Henri Bernstein (1876-1953), who at this auction sold a large part of his collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art.