Lot 4
  • 4

Giovanni Boldini

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Giovanni Boldini
  • La Senna (On the Seine)
  • signed Boldini (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 11 3/4 by 18 1/2 in.
  • 30 by 47 cm


Abraham Disbecker, New York (and sold, his sale, American Art Galleries, New York, April 1, 1898, lot 23, as On the Seine at Bougival)
Private Collection
Sale: Parke-Bernet, New York, October 24, 1946, lot 14, illustrated (as On the Seine at Bougival)
Gherardo Celestini, Milan
Bruno Falck, Milan
Acquired from the above in 1986


Milan, Palazzo della Permanente, Boldini, March 22 - May 14, 1989, no. 30. p. 100, 313
Livorno, Museo Fattori, Aria di Parigi nella pittura italiana del secondo Ottocento, December 4, 1998 - April 5, 1999, no. 90
Padua, Palazzo Zabarella; Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Boldini, January 15 - September 25, 2005, no. 45


Piero Dini and Francesca Dini, Giovanni Boldini 1842-1931, Catalogo ragionato, Turin, 2002, vol. I, illustrated pl. XXXV, p. 157, vol. III, p. 152, no. 265, illustrated
Tiziano Panconi, Giovanni Boldini, L'opera Completa, Florence, 2002, p. 184, illustrated


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting is in excellent condition. The canvas has an old glue lining, which is nicely stabilizing the paint layer. The painting seems quite freshly varnished and was probably cleaned at that time. While the cleaning is slightly uneven, for instance around the swans and white ducks on the left side, the painting looks extremely well. There are barely any retouches visible under ultraviolet light, but a few tiny dots of retouching have been added in a few isolated spots in the sky. The only slight concentration is in the lower sky on the right side. Only a few dots of retouching are visible through the landscape, foreground and water. Given BoldiniĀ’s rapid technique, it is quite possible that these retouches actually serve to tidy up the picture rather than address any real damage. The work is in beautiful state.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Boldini settled in Paris at the Place Pigalle in 1871, at twenty-nine years of age, and quickly inserted himself in the city’s art scene. Keenly aware of contemporary taste and often prompted by his powerful dealer, Adolphe Goupil, Boldini combined his own aesthetic interests with the popular demand for pre-Revolutionary imagery in a series of small and intimate paintings (see lot 8). These were often intricate interiors decorated in the eighteenth century style and populated by elegant women in period costume, suggesting the influence of historical genre paintings by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (also a close friend) and Mariano Fortuny. Through much of the 1870s, he also spent countless hours studying Versailles’ elaborate architecture and rococo decorations and exploring the manicured grounds, sketching numerous studies en plein air which would later inform his “realistic” paintings of the past. While those works look to the eighteenth century for their inspiration, the present work, with its inclusion of steam boats and telegraph wires, is squarely set in contemporary times. Boldini painted a number of exceptional landscapes during his first years in Paris, including Highway of Combes-La-Ville (1873, Philadelphia Museum of Art, fig. 1) and La Senna, the present work. In both of these works, and unlike his tightly packed interiors, Boldini is able to create the effect of airy space and light, as if he were liberating himself from the confines of the genre interiors he painted. Generous use of white and a seemingly unlimited color palette suggest an appreciation and understanding of Impressionism, and here he gives special consideration to the reflections in the water, the fleeting sensation of movement in the foreground skiff and the ducks and soaring birds, and the effect of perspective within a frieze-like composition.

The scene is probably set in Bougival, just outside of Paris, where Boldini went several times to paint.  In a letter addressed to Signorini in 1877, Boldini writes of his intention to stay in Bougival for three months, and could therefore have painted this picture during that period. Monet and Renoir had found motives to paint in the same surroundings, earning it the moniker “the cradle of Impressionism”, and while their works are now famous, at that time they were valued far less than Boldini’s. In fact, the Italian art critic Diego Martelli and champion of the Macchiaoli, in a note on his Parisian sojourn of 1878, has left a description of the six paintings by Boldini which appeared at an auction of the time beside works of Corot, Manet, Jongkind and other well-known artists: “His paintings”, comments Martelli, “show parts executed in incredible detail, and parts left alone, without this or that minutia seeming possessed, to the smallest degree, of the physiognomy of the charlatan”. Of the one painting which specifically represented Bougival, which could be identified with that on exhibition, Martelli then adds that Boldini “… conceitedly makes out just lumps of matter in the foreground, only to discover impossible minutia of colour and form at a distance of three miles” (Antonio Boschetto, Scritti d’arte di Diego Martelli, Florence, 1953, pp. 55,56, 58).