Lot 39
  • 39

Jean Béraud

Estimate
600,000 - 800,000 USD
Sold
1,810,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Jean Béraud
  • Bois de Boulogne 
  • signed Jean Béraud. (lower left)
  • oil on canvas

Catalogue Note

Émile Zola’s La Curée (The Kill) (1872) opens with a vivid description of a “crush of carriages returning via the lakeshore” of Paris’ Bois du Boulogne.  While their carriage’s passage was “ground to a halt,” Renne, a fantastically wealthy woman, and her stepson Maxime dissect the fashions of the people around them: “occasionally one caught a glimpse of female finery in an open landau, a flash of silk here or velvet there…. Inside the carriages one heard the conversations of people passing by on foot”.  (Emile Zola, La Curée (The Kill), translated by Arthur Goldhammer, New York, 2004, p. 4) Though surrounded by nature, Zola’s characters, just as the throngs of park-goers painted by Béraud in the present work, spend little time observing the natural beauty of the tree-lined lanes and are instead preoccupied with spying on one another.  Located on the western edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, the Bois de Boulogne drew many visitors from the fashionable set, but the immense grounds were open to all, and throughout the Belle Époque, its alleys were filled with carriages and coaches, horseback riders and bicyclists (whom Béraud frequently depicted in other paintings). As suggested by the quality of light filtered through the verdant trees of the present work, late afternoon was the traditional time for a promenade.  Indeed, as American writer Theodore Child noted in his guide The Praise of Paris, "the afternoon drive to the Bois brings together, to see and be seen, all the notabilities of fashionable Paris, the celebrities of society and of the stage, of leisure and of talent, of glory and of scandal” (Theodore Child, The Praise of Paris, New York, 1893, p. 77).   In the present work, with keen detail and subtle wit, Béraud perfectly illustrates the top item on a park-goers' itinerary: nearly every smartly dressed man and woman glances, gestures, calls, or peers at another as they stand shoulder to shoulder or ride in carriages that overlap, then blur, then disappear into the distant horizon.  The outstretched hand of a man in black suit and bowler hat embodies Childs’ observations of the flirty fun the park offered recalling that “on foot, too, may be seen the young bloods... Fixed, correct and stiff, lounging with weary air, cackling and uttering flute-like squeaks of admiration as they watch the horses and the women, and waft salutations that are never returned” (Child, p. 77).
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