Lot 48
  • 48

Edgar Degas

Estimate
2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Edgar Degas
  • Portrait de Zacharian
  • Pastel on paper laid down on the artist's board
  • 15 5/8 by 15 5/8 in.
  • 39.7 by 39.7 cm

Provenance

Mme. Zacharian, Paris

David David-Weill, Paris

Mrs. Marie-Claire Orlins, Long Island, New York (by descent from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 17, 1990, lot 9)

Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman

Exhibited

Paris, 1, rue Laffitte, 8e Exposition de peinture, 1886, no. 16

Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Degas, 1924, no. 153

Paris, Galerie A.J. Seligmann, Pastel Français, 1933

Paris, Musée des Art Decoratifs, Le Tabac dans l'Art, l'Histoire et la Vie, 1961-62

Paris, Galerie Schmit, Portraits Français XIX-XXe siècle, 1974, no. 16

Paris, Galerie Schmit, Degas, 1975, no. 29

Literature

Gustave Geffroy, "Salon de 1886: VIII, Hors du Salon: Les Impressionnistes," La Justice, Paris, May 1886, mentioned pp. 1-2

Octave Mirbeau, "Exposition de peinture (I, rue Laffitte)," La France, Paris, May 1886, mentioned pp. 1-2

Felix Fénéon, "Les Vingtistes parisiens," La Vogue, Paris, June 1886, mentioned pp. 261-275

Octave Maus, "Les Vingtistes parisiens," L'Art modern, Brussels, June 1886, mentioned pp. 201-204

Paul Lafond, Degas, vol. II, Paris, 1918-19, listed p. 17

Paul-André Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. III, Paris, 1946, no. 831, illustrated p. 481

Jean Sutherland Boggs, Portraits by Degas, Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1962, no. 134, listed p. xi; illustrated pl. 134
 
Franco Russoli & Fiorella Minervino, L'Opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, no. 642, illustrated p. 116

Paul-André Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. III, New York & London, 1984, no. 831, illustrated p. 481

Jean Sutherland Boggs & Anne Maheux, Degas Pastels, New York, 1992, no. 33, illustrated p. 105

Ruth Berson, The New Painting, Impressionism 1874-1886, vol. I, San Francisco, 1996, listed p. 422; vol. II, catalogued p. 240; illustrated p. 258

Catalogue Note

Portraiture was the most important genre in Degas's oeuvre, and though by the time the present work was executed the artist was increasingly fascinated by other themes, its expressive powers are notable.  During the 1860s and 1870s, Degas experimented with all the possibilities this traditional subject matter could offer to a  modern painter, both with regards to technique (oils, pastels, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography) and format. His gaze is unsentimental, sometimes ironic, and his portraits, whether of his family, friends, himself, or of Parisian celebrities, are both fresh and innovative, making him Baudelaire's 'painter of modern life' par excellence. 

In this work Degas deftly orchestrated the relationship between figure and space, eliminating all background referents and forcing the viewer to focus on the subject, Zacharie Zacharian, an Armenian artist who exhibited at the Salons and was known as a still-life painter.  Writing on this work, Jean Sutherland Boggs commented, "In this pastel in which Degas has drawn Zacharian's bowler hat as wonderfully dapper, his bushy brows raised with a certain distinction, his nostrils dilated with a certain hauteur, his beard and mustache as exquisitely barbered, all giving an impression of an aristocratic security, Degas... exposes some weaknesses...in the unfocused eyes, the worn Malacca cane with its silver top and in particular in the short, ashy cigarette butt between his fingers…. Although Degas had drawn loose strokes of a blue pastel for a background, giving no indication of a specific setting, he seems to have used a brush to indicate a horizontal whiff of smoke to the left of Zacharian's head, just brushing over a contour of his cheek and appearing again to the right of his ear and carried vertically to the top of the sheet…. Although the color is controlled and isolated in large patches in most of this pastel, Degas does break out into the most superb bravura performance in the head itself.  Using strokes of many colors in a network of hatching, he models its distinguished planes with great refinement, making us able to feel the structure of the nose or the temple, see the faint blue shadow by an eye, respond to the vitality of copper-colored hairs in his beard.  He must have done this with pure, dry pastel, whereas in some of the other areas he could have moistened the pastel with water or some other medium" (J. Sutherland Boggs, Degas Pastels, New York, 1992, p. 104).

Sotheby's would like to thank Professor Theodore Reff for his assistance with the cataloguing of this work.



Close