Lot 68
  • 68

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

12,000,000 - 18,000,000 USD
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  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • La Clownesse Cha-U-Kao
  • Signed T Lautrec (lower left)
  • Peinture à l'essence on board
  • 31 7/8 by 23 1/2 in.
  • 81 by 59.8 cm


Paul Gallimard, Paris 

Paul Rosenberg, Paris

Mr. & Mrs. Frank H. Ginn, Cleveland (acquired by 1931)

Mr. & Mrs. William Powell Jones, Gates Mills, Ohio (by descent from the above 1941 and until at least 1956)

Wildenstein & Co., New York  

Florence J. Gould, Cannes (acquired from the above in 1964)

Estate of Florence J. Gould (sold: Sotheby's, New York, April 24, 1985, lot 50)

Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


London, Goupil Gallery, Portraits and Other Works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1898

Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1902, no. 53

Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Peintures et Lithographies originales de Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1910, no. 9 

Paris, Galerie Manzi-Joyant, Exposition rétrospective de l'oevure de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1914, no. 53

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Posters by Toulouse-Lautrec, 1930-31, no. 27, p. 73, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Tenth Loan Exhibition, Lautrec — Redon, 1931, no. 25, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Trentenaire, 1931, no. 142, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Toulouse-Lautrec, Paintings, Drawings, Posters, 1937, no. 19, illustrated in the catalogue

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Honderd Jaar Fransche Kunst: Tentoonstelling, 1938, no. 240, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, French Painting from David to Toulouse-Lautrec, 1941, no. 115

New York, Wildenstein & Co., Toulouse-Lautrec, 1946, no. 27, illustrated in the catalogue    

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1947

Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art, Toulouse-Lautrec, 1951 (not in the catalogue)

Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Toulouse-Lautrec, en l'honneur du cinquantième anniversaire de sa mort, 1951, no. 58, illustrated in the catalogue

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Toulouse-Lautrec, 1955-56, no. 64, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Toulouse-Lautrec: Paintings, Drawings, Posters and Lithographs, 1956, no. 35, illustrated in the catalogue

Vienna, Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1966, no. 22 

Ingelheim am Rhein, Museum bei der Kaiserpfalz, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1968, no. 2, illustrated in the catalogue

Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Elles, 1976, no. 43, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Alexander Brook, "Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec," The Arts, September 1923, illustrated p. 150

Achille Astre, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1926, illustrated p. 69 

Maurice Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pientre, Paris, 1926, listed p. 289

François Fosca, "Lautrec," Les Albums d'Art Druet, Paris, 1928, illustrated pl. 11

Cahiers d'Art, no. 2, Paris, 1931, illustrated p. 110

Robert Rey, "L'Exposition Toulouse-Lautrec," Les Annales, April 15, 1931, illustrated p. 378

Pierre Mac Orlan, Lautrec, Paris, 1934, illustrated p. 169

Emile Schaud-Koch, Psychanalyse d'un peintre moderne: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1935, p. 183

Gerstle Mack, Toulouse-Lautrec, New York, 1938, pp. 133-34

Leonardo Borgese, Toulouse-Lautrec, Milan, 1945, illustrated pl. XXV

Lionelle Venturi, Impressionists and Symbolists, New York & London, 1950, pp. 213-14, illustrated fig. 216

M. G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1952, illustrated p. 8,

Edouard Julien, Pour Connaître Toulouse-Lautrec, 1959, illustrated p. 37

Herbert Asmodi, Toulouse-Lautrec — Moulin Rouge, 1956, illustrated pl. 23 

Henri Perruchot, La Vie de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1958, illustrated in color p. 265

Philippe Huisman & M.G. Dortu, Lautrec by Lautrec, New York, 1964, illustrated in color (detail) pp. 243

Giorgio Caproni & G.M. Sugana, L'Opera completa di Toulouse-Lautrec, Milan, 1969, no. 398, illustrated p. 112

M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York, 1971, vol. III, no P.582, illustrated p. 357

Charles Stuckey, Toulouse-Lautrec: Paintings (exhibition catalogue), 1979, illustrated p. 256

T Lautrec (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, 1987, illustrated p. 224

Toulouse-Lautrec: Woman as Myth (exhibition catalogue), Museio Synchronēs Technēs, Andros Island, Greece, 2001, detail illustrated p. 219


Please contact the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at (212) 606-7360 for the condition report for this lot.
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

La Clownesse is an exceptional example of Toulouse-Lautrec’s portraiture, as well as of his remarkably modern style.  The subject of this intimate portrait from 1895 was a popular dancer, Cha-U-Kao, who was known for her acrobatic take on erotic dances.  The artist executed several portraits of Cha-U-Kao in her black and yellow wardrobe; in the present work, as well as in the most completed portrait, currently in the Musée d’Orsay, the dancer is portrayed in a private moment, absorbed in her activity of preparing for a stage appearance, seemingly unaware that she is being watched and captured by the artist.

Portraiture played an important role in Toulouse-Lautrec’s oeuvre, and he approached the portrayal of his sitters with a keen psychological acuity. Freed from the necessity of seeking portrait commissions due to his family’s wealth, the artist rarely practiced flattery or yielded too greatly to convention in his portraits.  He was also free to cross class boundaries, choosing between artists and performers, or the working class and his own elite circle of friends and family members.  His interest in the complex nature of each sitter’s personality naturally led him towards the habit of executing multiple renderings of favored models.  The present work reflects Lautrec’s fundamental goal throughout his career, which was to explore and express the emotional and psychological realities that underlie human experience.

Like many of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most accomplished works from this period, the present painting was rendered with diluted oil paint, known as peinture à l'essence, to create the feathery appearance of pastel. Toulouse-Lautrec’s technique here was distinctly his own, as Gale Murray explains in her monograph of the artist:  "[The artist] was now evolving a distinctive way of applying paint thinly in long, striated brush strokes. He began also to layer his pigments, and whether he was painting on canvas primed with white ground or directly onto cardboard, he often left areas of the support exposed to function positively as 'color.' By thinning his oil paints with turpentine (peinture à l'essence), he mixed a less viscous, matte finish, giving an appearance more commonly associated with drawing or pastel than painting. He was, in effect, consolidating his personal variation of the Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist touch — his 'streak'— with his own adaptation in oil paints, first of Degas’s manner of applying pastel, and second, of the streaky drawing in illustrations by popular artists such as Steinlen, Forain, and Raffaëlli" (Gale Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Formative Years, 1878-1891, Oxford, 1991, p. 177). 

In turn-of-the-century Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec had no rivals as a chronicler of the café culture and the night life. Born into an aristocratic French family in 1864, Lautrec spent much of his life among the Parisian demimonde, revealing his genius in sharp, analytical portrayals of the twilight world. A brilliant interpreter of this lively and debauched world, Lautrec did not limit himself—as so many of his contemporaries had done—to social critique. Whether it was the quick sketch of a face, the curving lines of a group of dancers, a scene in a café, at the Théâtre des Variétés or in a maison close, he succeeded in capturing the timeless humanity that lay beneath the illusory façades of his subjects.

Mary Weaver Chapin wrote about Toulouse-Lautrec’s fascination with the café-concerts: "Of all the pleasures of Paris — the dance halls, circuses, cabarets, and brothels — it was the café-concert and its stars that cast the greatest spell on Toulouse-Lautrec.  He developed what he called furias, intense obsessions, with certain performers who would enthrall him for a single season or several years.  Lautrec would return night after night, recording the gestures, facial expressions, and postures that made each performer unique" (M. Weaver Chapin in Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. & The Art Institute of Chicago, 2005, p. 137).

The first owner of this picture was Paul Gallimard, who spent his inherited fortune on building his collection of modern art, including examples by Manet, Renoir, Daumier and Toulouse-Lautrec.  Upon Gallimard's death, the picture was sold by his heirs and eventually came into the possession of Frank Hadley Ginn (1865 - 1938), the Cleveland-based lawyer and patron of the arts who was instrumental in the support of the Cleveland Museum of Arts.  Upon his death in 1938, Ginn's daughter Marian inherited this picture. Her husband William Powell Jones was a Major in the United States Army during the Second World War, a professor at Case Western Reserve University and later Dean of Adelberg College.  The picture was eventually sold through the Wildenstein Gallery in New York to Florence J. Gould (1895 - 1983), the opera singer and wife of Frank Jay Gould, the inheritor of a railroad fortune.   After they were married in the 1920s, the Goulds moved to the south of France and established themselves at the epicenter of the avant-garde, befriending many of the artists and writers of the day including Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Max Jacob.  Gould amassed an impressive collection of Impressionist and Modern Art, which was sold at a landmark sale at Sotheby's in 1985.