Lot 117
  • 117

Louis Anquetin

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Louis Anquetin
  • L’Intérieur de chez Bruant: le Mirliton
  • Oil on canvas
  • 57 1/8 by 61 3/4 in.
  • 145 by 157 cm


Private Collection, Europe (acquired circa 1960)
Acquired from the above


Frédéric Destremau, "Les études de L'Intérieur de chez Bruant par Louis Anquetin (1861-1932)" in La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, no. 3, 1993, pp. 61-65


The very fine canvas on which this work was originally painted has been lined onto another piece of linen and stretched onto a stretcher. The lining and the stretcher do appear to be period to the painting. The condition is marvelous throughout most of the paint layer. With the exception of the far right side, there are only a few isolated spots of retouching. There is certainly no abrasion, and all of the glazes and fine details are undamaged. The right half of the lower right quadrant seems to have suffered some damage in the past (possibly from water), and there are isolated losses beginning around the woman with the hat on the far right running down toward the lower right corner. Under ultraviolet light, one can see groups of small but numerous retouches in this area.
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

Louis Anquetin arrived in Paris in 1882 and began to study art at Léon Bonnat's studio, there meeting Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec before moving to the studio of Fernand Cormon and befriending both Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh. His striking appearance and artistic skill established Anquetin as one of the leading lights of the Parisian artistic and literary avant-garde: “He established a reputation as a brilliant, innovatory artist and leader of a café-cabaret circle centred on Aristide Bruant's Le Mirliton in Montmartre... His subject matter included townscapes, café-cabaret scenes, nudes, the racecourse and fashionable women: he absorbed and discarded with equal speed styles derived from Lautrec and Renoir” (John House & Mary Ann Stevens, Post-Impressionism, Cross-Currents in European Painting, London, 1979, p. 28). As Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith later wrote, “When [Toulouse-Lautrec] met Louis Anquetin at the age of seventeen, he barely rose above the other man’s belt… Lautrec…referred to his towering friend as 'my great man,' and, after that, rarely left his side. The unlikely pair ran the Cormon studio as their own personal social club. Anquetin commanded the respect of his fellow students with his Jovian countenance and masterful brush” (Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith, Van Gogh, The Life, New York, 2011, pp. 510-11). From these early days and throughout his frenetic career, Anquetin explored a broad range of evolving influences and styles, most notably including Japanese prints and the art of the Impressionists.

The present work, dating from 1886-87, belongs to the period in which, encouraged by Bernard, Anquetin turned away from his brief experiment with Neo-Impressionism and began to employ flat regions of color circumscribed by thick, black contour outlines. This new method evolved in parallel to the ideas expounded by the literary Symbolists who frequented the same cafés and engaged in passionate debates with the artists of Anquetin's circle. Although Bernard later claimed that it was he who originated Cloisonnism, Anquetin was hailed as the leader of the movement when he exhibited his works early in 1888, first with Les XX in Brussels and later in the Salons des Indépendents in Paris. His old school friend, Édouard Dujardin, created the moniker and, in the Revue Indépendante, used his analysis of Anquetin's work to link this style to the Symbolist movement.

L’Intérieur de chez Bruant: le Mirliton is not only a large-scale group portrait representing many of the artist’s illustrious friends, but also a portrait of their preferred gathering place, Le Mirliton, the vivacious establishment opened in 1885 in what had been the second location of the Chat Noir. The cabarets, cafés and dance halls of Montmartre proved a source of endless inspiration for Anquetin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bernard and others in their circle who frequented these establishments together. They counted among their intimates many of the stars of Parisian nightlife.  One of these stars may well be the central figure of the present work: Louise Weber, commonly known by the name La Goulue, a moniker derived from her habit of picking up and drinking the glasses of those whose tables she passed. In L’Intérieur de chez Bruant: Le Mirliton, the central female singer is the sun around which the whole audience orbits, one hand placed firmly on the table in front of her, the other assertively on her hip. Anquetin accurately captures her eyes, known to be slightly crossed, as well as her unmistakable signature coiffeur. La Goulue catapulted to fame by dancing a form of the cancan, the chahut, and later the grand quadrille at the Moulin Rouge, where she was a principal star when it opened in 1889. La Goulue’s celebrity is recorded in the many paintings, prints and drawings by Toulouse-Lautrec, among other artists.  Galerie Brame & Lorenceau have also offered the possibility that the singer may be based Mathilde Richard, a favorite model of the artist's from 1886-92 (see fig. 6).

Bruant, the famed cabaret singer and then-proprietor of Le Mirliton, stands arms akimbo above the crowd in the left background. Even with his features obscured by the chandelier’s light, he is easily identified by his crimson shirt, for he “was remarkable for his theatrical familiarity; dressed in a bright red shirt, a scarf of the same colour…a black velvet suit, top boots, a dark cycling cape and a broad-brimmed floppy hat, he created a sensation by hurling insults at the audience in the tradition of Salis” (Götz Adriani, Toulouse Lautrec, London, 1987, pp. 299 & 302). The Mirliton itself can be identified as our setting not only by the highly recognizable figure of Bruant, but also by the blazing electric light fixtures that so defined Belle Epoque Parisian nightlife, and by the incongruously contemplative figure of a bronze angel, kneeling on the bar at upper left in an attitude of prayer.

Another familiar figure, to the left of our singer, is Emile Bernard. Sketches and other studies for this depiction of the artist are known, one of which is housed in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (see fig. 7). Toulouse-Lautrec almost certainly appears in this scene as well, identified by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau in two places: as the figure at the extreme left of the canvas with a top hat, pointed beard, cane and red gloves, and also in the background at center, where another diminuative bearded figure is visible standing heads below the other patrons. Frédéric Destremau writes extensively about the portrait studies for the present work in an article published in 1995 titled “Les études de L'Intérieur de chez Bruant par Louis Anquetin (1861-1932)" (op. cit.).

Several references in the published literature on Anquetin mention L’Intérieur de chez Bruant: le Mirliton either by name or by inference, although it was presumed either lost or to have been left incomplete. Galerie Brame & Lorenceau observes, “Anquetin also worked on a large panel. L’Intérieur de chez Bruant in which he wanted to represent his friends. Lautrec, Tampier, Richard, and Émile Bernard, who refused to set foot in a place whose lowness horrified him. So he made a number of sketches, too many sketches in fact, so many that he exhausted his research and his panel never saw the light of day” (Galerie Brame & Lorenceau, ed., Anquetin, La Passion d’être Peintre, Paris, 1991, p. 99, translated from the French). Also, L’Intérieur de chez Bruant: le Mirliton may appear in the center-left background of a photograph of Anquetin’s studio taken circa 1891-92 (see fig. 3). Other students of the Atelier Cormon appear in this scene as well and have been kindly identified by the Galerie Brame & Lorenceau: Paul Tampier "recognizable by his impressive moustache" is seen at near right in profile, Albert Grenier is seated to his right and wears a hat and smokes a pipe, François Gauzi sits just above and left of Grenier, sipping a drink.  It is hard to imagine that Anquetin did not plan to include his own image somewhere amidst all of these friends and compatriots.

Anquetin was not alone in sketching and painting his circle of friends, both in separate studies and as elements in large interior scenes representing the locations they frequented. “Lautrec’s admiration for and comradeship with Anquetin is also revealed by Lautrec’s depiction of his friend in his two 1886 paintings, Le Refrain de la chaise Louis XIII au Mirliton (see fig. 4) and La Quadrille de la chaise Louis XIII à l’Elysée Montmartre, that hung in the Mirliton… Lautrec’s depictions of the interiors of the Mirliton and the Elysée-Montmartre coincide roughly with Anquetin’s attempts in 1885 and 1887 to produce a large-scale painting entitled L’Intérieur du cabaret Bruant, which he eventually abandoned, and coincide also with Émile Bernard’s execution of the large pastel L’Heure de la viande. At this time Anquetin, Bernard, and Lautrec frequented together the Mirliton and other cabarets and dance halls” (Phillip Dennis Cate & Patricia Eckert Boyer, The Circle of Toulouse-Lautrec. An Exhibition of the Work of the Artist and of His Close Associates (exhibition catalogue), The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 1986, p. 70).

We are grateful to the Galerie Brame & Lorenceau for their additional research and assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.