Lot 67
  • 67

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
  • Les Gaulois
  • signed COROT (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 42 7/8 by 51 1/8 in.
  • 108.9 by 129.8 cm


Jean-Baptiste Faure (and sold, Hôtel Drouot Paris, April 29, 1878, lot 7, illustrated)
John Pierpont Morgan, New York (by 1879)
Matilda R. Wilson, Meadowbrook Hall, Rochester, Michigan (from 1926 and sold, her estate, Parke-Bernet, New York, October 28, 1970, lot 8, illustrated)
Arthur Murray, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Thence by descent


Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, 1875, no. 32
Detroit Art Institute, Detroit Private Collectors, 1926, no. 51
Detroit Art Institute, Masterpieces from Detroit Private Collections of Paintings, 1949, no. 5


Edward Strahan, ed., The Art Treasures of America, Philadelphia, 1879, vol. III, p. 21, 22  (as Le Gallais); in the 1977 facsimile edition vol. III, p. 11, 12
Alfred Robaut, L'oeuvre de Corot, catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1905, vol. III, p. 356, no. 2310, illustrated opp.


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is in lovely condition. With a few adjustments, it could be hung in its current state. The large canvas has an old glue lining. The paint layer is clean and varnished. A few retouches have been added to reduce a pentiment in the sky toward the upper left edge. Some of these retouches are slightly discolored and could be re-examined. This pentiment extends through the landscape on the left side beneath the trees into the rose bush in the lower left. This pentiment is perfectly natural and common in large scale works by the artist. There may be a handful of small retouches in the trees in the upper center of the painting, but these probably only address some cracking. There does not seem to be any abrasion. There are remnants of old varnish remaining on the surface in some of the darker colors. The work is clearly in wonderful condition.
"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

Alfred Robaut viewed Les Gaulois on an easel in Corot’s studio in Coubron on June 14, 1874 and, like so many of the illustrations in Robaut’s catalogue raisonné, he recorded it with one of his drawings.  This early incarnation of the painting appears as Robaut, no. 2310 (A) (fig. 1).  Robaut’s visit to Coubron is fortuitous for a couple of reasons: it demonstrates that as late as 1874, Corot was energetic and motivated and showed no signs of slowing down, he was still capable of painting a large-scale landscape reminiscent of the type of painting he did as a much younger artist.  Furthermore, it gives us a first-hand glimpse into his creative process, Robaut later photographed the work, illustrated as Robaut, no. 2310 (B), which is as it appears today.  Here, we see how Corot altered the composition, most evident in the left hand side, where he originally included a tall, thin tree with wispy branches and which, for some unknown reason, he decided to paint out of the final version.    

The title of the painting, Les Gaulois, refers to the figures with red tunics, bronze helmets and pointed spears, who are easily identifiable as soldiers of the warrior-tribes who inhabited France during Roman times. The landscape settings in Corot’s paintings almost always remain the same regardless if the figures that populate them are real or imaginary.  His young French peasant girls sit under the same trees as his nymphs and bacchantes; his field workers travel the same meandering roads as Dante and Virgil (R. 1099), or as in the case of the present painting,  soldiers from an ancient era. Corot’s landscape is forever constant, no matter who –real or fictitious- inhabits its fields, hills, plains or mountains. 

It is not often that the provenance of a painting includes a sequence of individuals whose names are as well-known as the past owners of Les Gaulois.  Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the first owner was the famous French baritone and collector, Jean-Baptiste Faure, who owned multiple works by Manet, including Déjeuner sur l’Herbe.  The painting then entered the collection of the American financier, J.P. Morgan in 1879, and was chronicled by Edward Strahan in his compendium of America’s most important collections as “a truly magnificent specimen of Corot” (Strahan, p. 11). It remained in America and ended up in Michigan in the 1920s when it belonged to Matilda Dodge Wilson, who had been married to John Francis Dodge, the co-founder of the Dodge automobile company. Her estate was sold by Parke-Bernet in 1970, when Les Gaulois was purchased by Arthur Murray, the founder of the ballroom dance studios that still bear his name as well as the popular 1950s television show, The Arthur Murray Party.  During their lifetime, Arthur Murray and his wife, Kathryn also assembled an impressive collection of French Impressionist paintings, which included several works by Renoir and Pissarro.  They bequeathed Les Gaulois to their daughter, Jane, who was married to Dr. Henry Heimlich, the inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver.