Lot 11
  • 11

Hugues Merle

30,000 - 50,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Hugues Merle
  • L'abandonnée
  • signed Hugues Merle and dated 1872 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 25 1/2 by 20 in.
  • 64.8 by 50.8 cm


Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Mary 24, 1998, lot 140, illustrated
Acquired at the above sale

Catalogue Note

Merle has long been associated with his friend and possible rival, William Bouguereau— they not only depicted similar subjects but also both employed a high finish and naturalistic technique. Merle was just two years older than Bouguereau, and their thematic and artistic correspondance begged comparison from critics and collectors alike. They were represented by Alphonse Goupil, the powerful dealer who also published photographs of his artists' work.  One such carte-album of the L’abandonnée is sold together with this lot.  Another similarity shared between Merle and Bouguereau is the practice of painting reductions of their popular subjects (the larger version of L'abandonné was sold in these rooms on October 24, 2006, lot 89). These compositions are a testament to Merle’s renown and demonstrate his uncanny ability to match a high degree of finish with emotional sensitivity. The crystal tear tumbling from the wide eye and untamed hair of the young mother clasping her baby who is blissfully unaware of her anguish, easily communicates the drama of the scene, the work’s title understood when spying the wedding party departing a church in the distance. While the unwed mother may seem a very modern subject, the theme had been explored by Merle’s contemporaries. Octave Tassaert’s L’abandonnée of 1852 (Musée Fabre, Montpelier) similarly depicts a pregnant woman ignored, as she faints in a church while a bride and groom go down the aisle.  In Tassaret’s composition a relevant social message is melded with a genre subject; in Merle’s interpretation, the psychological crisis is evocatively enhanced.