Lot 3
  • 3

Georges Bretegnier

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Georges Bretegnier
  • Une audience du Pacha a Tanger
  • signed and dated G Bretegnier 1887 lower left
  • oil on canvas
  • 124 by 174cm., 48¾ by 68½in.


Arthur Tooth & Sons, London
UK Private Collection (acquired from the above)


Paris, Salon, 1887, no. 344 (titled Une audience du Pacha; - Maroc)
Paris, Exposition Universelle, 1889, no. 182 (titled Une audience du Pacha à Tanger)


The canvas has not been lined. There is a faint horizontal & vertical stretcher mark crossing in the centre of the composition. Ultraviolet light reveals strokes of retouching along the extrme right edge, and there is a number of small restorations visible under ultraviolet light which are minor for a painting of this size, notably a small circa 6cm inverted 'Y'-shaped restoration in the top of the arch, a spot in the wall in the upper left quadrant, an area of restoration in the chest of the seated man in turquoise, a spot in the floor in the lower right, and a 3cm spot in the ground left of centre (there are approximately a dozen small patches on the reverse addressing these minor restorations). Overall the painting is in good condition for its size. Held in a decorative gilt frame with a fine green baize liner. The catalogue illustration is accurate in terms of colour, however please note the vertical mark near the left edge in the upper half of the composition visible in the printed catalogue appears to be a printer's error, and is not visible in the work itself.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Depicting a pasha seated beneath the cool splendour of one of the grand portals considered to be that of the Dar el Makhzen Palace, Tangiers, the present work captures the rituals, hierarchy and colourful life that Bretegnier encountered on his visits to North Africa to optimum effect.

Centrally positioned and raised slightly higher than his subjects, his eminence engages in dialogue with a group of men who gather round before him to seek his counsel. Outside the richly decorated archway, men line the approach, sitting in groups or leaning against the formidable palace ramparts, some no doubt patiently waiting their turn to discuss matters with their ruler, others there to pass the time of day, look on with curiosity or chat with their friends.

The magnificent height of the central arch and the massive scale of the tall palace walls to either side, all focus on the great authority of the central character in a composition that brilliantly evokes the intense heat of the day, the simple splendour of the architectural setting – its austerity broken only by the lush leaves of an overhanging tree - and the colourful cast of characters from near and far attracted to the occasion who populate the canvas, each man a figure study in his own right.

A pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Bretegnier first visited North Africa at the end of 1884 where he remained until the following summer, studying the culture and the architecture, while visiting Morocco, Tunisia and Spain. Hugely influenced by what he found, he took to dressing in the local garb in order to mix more easily with the locals, sporting a djellaba and travelling with a donkey to transport his equipment. Bretegnier returned to North Africa in 1887, exploring Tunisia, and renting a house by the sea in Tangiers. The present work was the only painting he showed that year at the Salon, selecting the painting again for inclusion in the Exposition Universelle of two years later.