- Alfred Stevens
- Ready for the Fancy Dress Ball
- signed Alfred Stevens. and dated 1879 (lower right)
- oil on canvas
- 35 3/4 by 46 in.
- 90.8 by 116.8 cm
George Washington Vanderbilt II, New York (by descent from the above, his father)
Brigadier General Cornelius Vanderbilt, New York (by descent from the above, his uncle and sold, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, April 18-19, 1945, lot 67, illustrated)
Hulett Merrit, Pasadena, California (acquired at the above sale)
Dr. Benjamin Reich, Los Angeles, California
Gerald E. Landweer, Beverly Hills and Vancouver
Private Collector (acquired in 1975, and sold, Sotheby’s, New York, October 13, 1978, lot 96, illustrated)
Private Collector (acquired at the above sale)
Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above, 1988
Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art; Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery; Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Alfred Stevens, September 1977-March 1978, no. 31
Collection of W.H. Vanderbilt, 640 Fifth Avenue, New York, 1882, p. 40, no. 74
Edward Strahan, Mr. Vanderbilt’s House and Collection, New York, circa 1883-84, vol. 4, p. 59 (a detail illustrated in black and white engraving)
William Coles, Alfred Stevens, exh. cat., The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor; The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal, 1977, p. 70, no. 31
Jerry E. Patterson, The Vanderbilts, New York, 1989, p. 109
Christiane Lefebvre, Alfred Stevens, Paris, 2006, p. 133-4, no. 154, illustrated p. 134 (as Mi-Carême)
Alfred Stevens 1823 Brussels – 1906 Paris, exh. cat., Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels; The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 36, illustrated fig. 12 (as mi-Carême)
Wayne Craven, Gilded Mansions: Grand Architecture and High Society, New York, 2009, p. 103
Manuela Moscatiello, Le japonisme de Giuseppe De Nittis, Bern, 2011, p. 126
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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Set in the Chinese Boudoir of Stevens’ home on the Rue des Martyrs, Ready for the Fancy Dress Ball, is a “tour de force of interior painting and one of the climactic pictures of his career” (Coles, p. 71). The room and its contents are well documented, visually, but were also written about by many, including Robert de Montesquieu. One particular first-hand account by Max Sulzberger, offers a special insight as he writes: “Except for a view of an English park, with its green lawns, its lake, its shades (my luxury, says the artist, showing us with a smile of this true oasis in the middle of Paris), one would feel as if he were in the middle of the winter pavilion of the heavenly empire” (as quoted in Coles, p. 71). He describes a room that is decorated with furnishings “from the Imperial Palace,” brought back by an officer on expedition to China, and describes the painted gold paper walls and the doors and furniture of the most beautiful black Chinese lacquer (Coles, p. 71). Through the open door at right is the artist’s Salon, which Stevens painted the same year as the present work in his complimentary masterpiece, Le Salon du peintre (Private Collection, fig. 1).
Stevens certainly perceived his Chinese Boudoir a powerful setting, painting it for the first time with Cache-Cache (University of Michigan Museum of Art), in Les Visiteuses, purchased by King Leopold for the massive sum of 60,000 francs, and in the present work (fig. 2). It was bought by the American industrialist and philanthropist William Henry Vanderbilt for 50,000 francs in 1879, and it hung prominently in his home on Fifth Avenue, where, fittingly, he had an elaborate gallery decorated according to the trend for japonisme and chinoiserie (fig. 3).
In this composition, Stevens has arranged his figures against a long wall in a frieze-like fashion. The horizontality is emphasized by the furniture in the room, as well as his choice of textiles and his use of the floor and molding as a framing device and the long, pink fringed cloth draws attention to the center. The figure seated at left on a yellow upholstered chair (next to a plush, fantastically decorated ottoman) wears an elaborate outfit of fur-trimmed velvet. She is very sensitively painted as she leans forward to greet the two young boys being presented to her. Stevens did not frequently paint children, but these two are particularly expressive examples as they appear “in character.” The model on the right wears a modified form of aesthetic dress, adopted in 1878-9, representing a historical allusion to a neck style common before 1600, though it is not considered a fancy dress costume. This aesthetic influence is in line with Stevens’ interests of the period and, as in Cache-Cache’s narrative of hide and seek, the use of costumes continues the artist’s investigation of what art hides and reveals (Coles, p. 73).