Lot 18
  • 18

James Ensor

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • James Ensor
  • Le Jardin d'amour
  • Signed Ensor twice and dated 1891 (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 31 1/2 by 39 3/8 in.
  • 80 by 100.5 cm


Mottard Collection, Brussels

Maurice des Ombiaux, Brussels (acquired by 1908)

Galerie Georges Giroux, Brussels

Mrs. Georges Giroux, Brussels (acquired by 1929)

Emmanuel Hoffman, Basel

Maja Sacher-Stehlin, Basel (widow of the above; acquired in 1932)

Dr. Fritz Trüssel, Bern (acquired by 1954 and sold: Koller, Zurich, Sale Dr Fr. Trüssel, November 8, 1974, lot 2649)

Acquired at the above sale


Brussels, Les XX, 1893, no. 7

Brussels, Vème Salon de Printemps, 1913, no. 227 (possibly)

Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, James Ensor, 1920, no. 56

Antwerp, Kunst van Heden – L’Art Contemporain, 1921, no. 74

Paris, Galerie Barbazanges, James Ensor, 1926

Hannover, Kestner Gesellschaft, James Ensor, 1927, no. 32

Berlin, Galerie Paul Cassirer, James Ensor, 1927

Dresden, Galerie Neue Kunst Fides, James Ensor, 1927

Paris, Musée du Jeu de Paume, L’Art Belge depuis l’Impressionnisme, 1928, no. 83

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Retrospective James Ensor, 1929, no. 196

Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, L’Art vivant en Belgique, 1931, no. 2

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, L’Art vivant en Europe, 1931, no. 159

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Tentoonstelling van Belgische beelende kunst van de laaste honderd jaren, 1931, no. 142

The Hague, Pulchri Studio, Tentoonstelling van Belgische beelende kunst van de laaste honderd jaren, 1931, no. 68

Paris, Musée du Jeu de Paume, L’oeuvre de James Ensor, 1932, no. 64

Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Retrospective James Ensor, 1951, no. 97

Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, James Ensor, 1954, no. 60

Basel, Kunsthalle, James Ensor, 1963, no. 59

Munster, Westfalisches Landesmuseum, James Ensor, 1963, no. 59

Lausanne, Exposition Nationale Suisse Lausanne, Palais de Beaulieu, Chefs d'oeuvres des collections Suisses, 1964

Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich  & Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten,  James Ensor, 1983, no. 76 (no. 83 in Antwerp), illustrated in the catalogue

Hyogo, Museum of Modern Art; Kamakura, Museum of Modern Art; Miyagi, Miyagi Museum of Art & Saitama, Museum of Modern Art, James Ensor, 1983-84, no. 2, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Tanlay, Centre d’Art Contemporain, James Ensor & Roel D’Haese, 1986, no. 69

Hamburg, Kunstverein, James Ensor, 1986–87, no. 17

London, Barbican Art Gallery, James Ensor, 1997, no. 32

Basel, Kunstmuseum Basel, James Ensor from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and Swiss Collections, 2013-14, no. 115, illustrated in color in the catalogue

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


Emile Verhaeren, James Ensor, Brussels, 1908, p. 116

Gregoire Le Roy, James Ensor, Brussels & Paris, 1922, illustrated p. 122

Paul Fierens, James Ensor, Paris, 1929, illustrated pl. 24

Julio E. Payro, James Ensor, Buenos Aires, 1943, illustrated pl. 35

Paul Haesaerts, James Ensor, Brussels, 1957, no. 280, illustrated p. 284

Jacques Janssens, James Ensor, Paris, 1990, illustrated p. 73

Michel Draguet, James Ensor ou la fantasmagorie, Paris, 1999, no. 180 (incorrectly catalogued)

Xavier Tricot, James Ensor, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, 1875-1902, Antwerp, 1992, vol. I, no. 315, illustrated p. 307

Xavier Tricot, James Ensor, Ostfildern, 2009, no. 328, illustrated in color p. 309

Catalogue Note

In the mid-1880s, influenced by the bright colors of the Impressionists and the grotesque imagery of earlier Flemish masters such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Ensor turned toward avant-garde themes and styles.   This vibrant composition encapsulates a blend of tradition and fantasy that is symptomatic of the complex and divided personality of the artist.

The present work, featuring a garden of lovers, harkens to Bosch’s famous Garden of Earthly Delights.  Ensor has portrayed the subject  with more restraint thematically, but the whimsy of his style is wholly modern. Another defining aspect of the composition is the association with carnival and the characters of the Commedia dell'arte; the associated revelry allowed the artist to channel his rebellious spirit into his art.  Ensor was a political radical who was disgusted by the corruption of bourgeois society. The present composition suggests a world of anarchic freedom, a foil to the stultifying conventions of Belgian society. As the artist commented, “Hounded by those on my trail, I joyfully took refuge in the solitary land of fools where the mask, with its violence, its brightness and brilliance, reigns supreme… freshness of colour, extravagant decoration, wild generous gestures, strident expressions, exquisite turbulence”(quoted in Carol Brown, 'Introduction' in James Ensor 1860-1949, Theatre of Masks (exhibition catalogue), Barbican Art Gallery, London, 1997, p. 12).

Writing in the Gianadda exhibition catalogue about this picture, Carol Brown describes the scene here as follows:  "The playful, costumed scene - a moment caught in a forest glade - with its tumbling jesters, musicians, a puffed-up gentleman, woman in frills, ballerinas and skinny elves, has more of the daintiness and frivolities of Watteau than any of Courbet's Realism or the light of Rembrandt or Turner.... These players are akin to the burlesque figures that evolved from Ensor's comic almost bawdy scene observations as in Les bains à Ostende, 1890), and which found their way into his crowd scenes, recurring even in what is surely his most important painting, L'entrée du Christ à Bruxelles en 1889" (C. Brown, op. cit., pp. 64-66).