Lot 62
  • 62

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Liseuse
  • Signed Renoir and dated 77 (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 16 1/4 by 12 7/8 in.
  • 41.3 by 32.5 cm


Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the artist on July 19, 1888)

Baron Herzog, Budapest (acquired from the above on October 17, 1911)

Baron Ferenc Hatvany, Budapest (until circa 1947-48, according to his daughter)

Carroll Carstairs Gallery, New York

Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney (acquired from the above on January 6, 1948)

The Greentree Foundation (acquired from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 4, 2004, lot 14)

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


London, The Tate Gallery, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1960-61, no. 48


François Daulte, Auguste Renoir, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Figures: 1860-1890, vol. I, Lausanne, 1971, no. 257, illustrated

Elda Fezzi & Jacqueline Henry, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Renoir, périod impressionniste 1869-1883, Paris, 1985, no. 295, illustrated p. 101

László Mravik, The 'Sacco de Budapest' and Depredation of Hungary, 1938-1949, Budapest, 1998, no. 16857, catalogued p. 245 (Sotheby's has been informed by the Hungarian government that it has no objection to the sale of this painting)

Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, vol. 1, Paris, 2007, no. 380, illustrated p. 407


The painting is in excellent condition except for some very small spots of retouching on her sleeve. The canvas has been relined with an aqueous adhesive and is 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

Renoir is renowned as a superb figure painter, and the present work was completed just as he was forging a reputation as a portraitist during the late 1870s.  Many of the subjects of these pictures were friends and acquaintances who visited his studio on the rue Cortot, where he completed Liseuse in 1877.  John Rewald has speculated that the model for this composition was a close friend of Renoir's named Marguerite Legrand, called Margot, who also appears as a dancing figure in the Bal au Moulin de la Galette, a version of which was also in the Whitney collection.   Discussing the figure in this picture, Rewald writes, "Whether [the present work] represents Margot or not, this small canvas vibrates with the remembrance of a still moment, of a reflective mood, of a warm feeling, and of a delicate impression" (John Rewald, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1960-61, The Tate Gallery, London, 1960-61).

For this composition, Renoir depicts the young woman, her chin resting against her hand, reading in an upholstered armchair.  Rewald has noted that the sitter looked "pensive rather than reading," as her lackadaisical posture suggests that she is not concentrating on the book in her lap.   In another composition, La Pensée (see fig. 2), completed around the same time, Renoir depicts a woman in the same armchair and with the same gesture but directly engaging with the viewer.  In the present picture, however, she is deep in thought and engulfed by her surroundings.  Renoir had painted his friend Edmond Maître in this pose a few years earlier, but in the present work, he is much more an Impressionist in his approach.  This is particularly notable in his treatment of the sitter's features, which appear as soft patches of color rather than clearly articulated forms.  The strong contrasts of light and dark and the dabs of paint that he applies to the surface of the canvas create the hazy, atmospheric appearance that was characteristic of classic Impressionist painting.

Colin B. Bailey has written extensively on the portraiture of Renoir, and notes that those of the 1870s were exceptionally well-received by the Parisian avant-garde, including the critic Georges Rivière:  "Although Georges Rivière would later claim that Renoir disliked painting portraits, even of pretty women, in April of 1877, at the time of his closest involvement with the artist, he is found advertising the painter's talents to female readers of the newly launched journal, L'Impressionniste, urging the wives of good Republicans to overcome their husbands' resistance and commission Renoir to paint 'a ravishing portrait that will capture every ounce of your charm'" (Colin B. Bailey, "Portrait of the Artist as a Portrait Painter," Renoir's Portraits, Impressions of an Age (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; The Art Institute of Chicago; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1997-98, p. 4).

was once in the eminent collection of Baron Ferenc Hatvany of Hungary.  During the 1920s and 1930s, the Hatvany collection was among the most prestigious in all of Hungary, and this picture hung in the Baron's salon, along with works by Manet and Delacroix.  According to Hatvany's daugher, the Baron sent this picture to America around 1947-48, at which point it was sold to the Whitneys.   Before Hatvany acquired it, the painting belonged to another famous Hungarian collector, Baron Herzog, who had purchased it from Renoir's dealer in Paris, Durand-Ruel.