Lot 17
  • 17

Vincent van Gogh

3,500,000 - 5,000,000 USD
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  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Le Bébé Marcelle Roulin
  • Oil on canvas
  • 14 1/4 by 9 7/8 in.
  • 36 by 25 cm


Roulin Family, Arles

Ambroise Vollard, Paris (acquired on July 19, 1900)

Auguste Bauchy, Livry

Auguste Pellerin, Paris (acquired by 1905)

Louis Bernard, Paris

M. Clerc, Paris (acquired by 1925)

Huinck & Scherjon Art Gallery, Amsterdam

H. E. ten Cate, Almelo, Holland 

E. J. Van Wisselingh, Amsterdam (by 1938)

Alex. Reid and Lefevre (The Lefevre Gallery), London & Bignou Gallery, New York (presumably from 1939 until at least 1948)

Acquired from the above


Paris, Galerie Druet, Cinquante Tableaux de Vincent Van Gogh, 1909, no. 33

Paris, Galerie Marcel Bernheim, Van Gogh, Exposition Rétrospective, 1925, no. 29

Amsterdam, E. J. Van Wisselingh Gallery, Exposition de peinture francaise, 1938, no. 13

London, Alex. Reid and Lefevre (The Lefevre Gallery), Milestones in French Painting, 1939, no. 15 (dated November 1888)

New York, Bignou Gallery, The Post Impressionists, 1940, no. 8

Los Angeles, Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, Gems of Genius, 1941, no. 7

Houston, McMillen Gallery, Vincent Van Gogh and other Famous Painters, 1941, no. 5

New York, Bignou Gallery, Masterpieces by Nineteenth Century French Painters, 1942, no. 7

New York, Bignou Gallery, Twelve Masterpieces by Nineteenth Century French Painters, 1943, no. 7

New York, Bignou Gallery, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century French Paintings, 1948

Paris, Galerie Max Kaganovitch, Oeuvres choisies du XIX siècle, 1950, no. 49

Antwerp, Koninkliijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Kunst van Heden, 1955, no. 171

Fondation Pierre Gianadda, ed., Collection Louis et Evelyn Franck, Zurich, 1998, illustrated in color p. 46

Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Van Gogh, 2000, no. 71, illustrated in color in the catalogue

The Art Institute of Chicago, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, 2002, illustrated in the catalogue

Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection & Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Van Gogh Repetitions, 2013-14, no. 23, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, 1997-2015 (on loan)


The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, New York, 1958, vol. III, LT560, B 15, W5 & W6

M. F. Henners, 'Een Portretje Van Vincent Van Gogh', Maandblad voor beeldende Kunsten, 1936, 13th Year, no. 9, illustrated in color pp. 265-266

Willem Scherjon & W. Josiah de Gruyter, Vincent van Gogh's Great Period: Arles, Saint Rémy and Auvers-sur-Oise (Complete Catalogue), Amsterdam, 1937, no. 127, illustrated p. 155

Jacob-Baart de la Faille, Vincent Van Gogh, Paris, 1939, no. H 477, illustrated p. 341

The Queen, London, June 14, 1939, illustrated

Art News, New York, July 15, 1939, illustrated

Art News Annual, 1948, illustrated p. 73

Jean-Noel Priou, 'Van Gogh et la famille Roulin', Revue des PTT de France, année 10 1955, no. 3, discussed pp. 25-33

Jacob-Baart de la Faille, The Works of Vincent Van Gogh, his Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. F 441a, illustrated p. 204

Paolo Lecaldano, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Van Gogh, Paris, 1971, vol. II, no. 621, illustrated p. 216

Jan Hulsker, The Complete van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam, 1977,  no. 1649, illustrated, p. 377

Ingo F. Walther & Rainer Metzger, Vincent van Gogh, Sämtliche Gemälde, Cologne, 1989, vol. II, illustrated in color p. 463

Giovanni Testori & Luisa Arrigoni, Van Gogh, catalogo complete dei dipinti, Florence, 1990, no. 603, illustrated p. 270

Jan Hulsker, The Complete van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam, 1996, no. 1640, illustrated, p. 377

Walter Feilchenfeldt, Vincent van Gogh, The Years in France, The Complete Paintings, 1886-1890, London 2013, illustrated in color p. 110

Catalogue Note

Le Bébé Marcelle Roulin was painted during van Gogh’s acclaimed Arles period and embodies its energy and optimism.  The present composition is one of three portraits Van Gogh completed in December 1888 of the daughter of the postman Joseph Roulin, whose famous portrait now graces the collection of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.  Of the three works, Van Gogh presented this one to the Roulin family, and he sent the others to be sold through Theo van Gogh in Paris.  They eventually found their way into the collections of major international museums, while the present work remained in private hands.

During his time living in Arles between February 1888 and May 1889, Van Gogh produced approximately 200 paintings, executed 100 works on paper and wrote over 200 letters. This tremendously fruitful period in Van Gogh’s production is widely considered the zenith of his career, during which time he produced the greatest works within his oeuvre. This sojourn in Arles was the very moment when his most legendary expressions of great beauty and exuberance were captured on canvas. Works such as Sunflowers, Self-Portrait, L’Arlesienne, The Night Café, The Sower and the postman Monsieur Roulin were all brilliantly realized with unparalleled creative force during this period.

During his stay in Arles, van Gogh rented four rooms in a small yellow house, la petite maison jaune, with a green door located at 2 Place Lamartine. In a letter to his brother Theo dating from late August 1888, van Gogh mentioned his friendship with a local postman, Joseph Roulin, who lived at the end of the street situated between two railway bridges.  Van Gogh painted six portraits of Roulin whilst in Arles, all of which reside in prominent institutional collections including The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, The Barnes Foundation, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the  Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.

In addition to Joseph Roulin, van Gogh painted portraits of the entire Roulin family between late 1888 and 1889. In December 1888, van Gogh announced to Theo, “I have made portraits of a whole family, that of the postman whose head I had done previously – the man, his wife, the baby, the little boy and the son of sixteen, all characters and very French, though the first has the look of a Russian. Size 15 canvases. You know how I feel about this, how I feel in my element, and that it consoles me up to a certain point for not being a doctor.  I hope to get on with this and to be able to get more careful posing, paid for by portraits.  And if I manage to do this whole family better still, at least I shall have done something to my liking and something individual” (LT560 quoted in Ronald Pickvance, Van Gogh in Arles, New York, 1984, p. 223). In addition to the six portraits of Monsieur Roulin, van Gogh painted  numerous portraits of his wife, Augustine Roulin (born Augustine-Alix Pellicot on October 9, 1851). La Berceuse: Madame Augutine Roulin meaning lullaby or Woman Rocking a Cradle is the most celebrated of these portraits. Of the five versions of La Berceuse, the rendering Madame Roulin admired most is in the permanent collection of The Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Portraits of the Roulin family account for the lion’s share of van Gogh’s Arles portraits. In addition to the portraits painted of Monsieur and Madame Roulin, van Gogh also painted their three children, Armand (the eldest son born May 5, 1871), Camille (the youngest son, born July 10, 1877), and Marcelle Roulin, painted only as a baby. Born July 31, 1888, baby Marcelle first appeared in paintings by van Gogh in her mother’s arms (see Augustine Roulin with her Baby) and later in three small individual portraits. Of the three portraits, the present work is the only composition which remains in private hands. The two other versions are at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  

Van Gogh’s portrait of Augustine Roulin with her Baby is not only a powerful and boldly colored intimate portrait of mother and child, but is often compared with and arguably the sole inspiration for Pablo Picasso’s Mother and Child from 1901.  Joseph J. Rishel & Katherine Sachs note, “Already by 1901, the young Picasso, just arrived in Paris from Barcelona for the first time, painted a Mother and Child, which must depend on a direct knowledge of Augustine Roulin with her Baby. He arrived too late to see the large Bernheim-Jeune show in that same year; however, the dealer Ambroise Vollard had in fact had this picture in his possession since at least 1894. As had recently been noted, Picasso’s placement of the two figures in the space, his use of the yellow backdrop, and particularly the mother’s large and somewhat spectral hand supporting the child’s chest are derived from van Gogh” (J. J. Rishel with K. Sachs in "The Modern Legacy of Van Gogh’s Portraits" from Van Gogh Face to Face, The Portraits, 2000, Detroit, p. 235).