Lot 8
  • 8

Marie-François Firmin-Girard

400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Marie-François Firmin-Girard
  • Le dimanche au Bas-Meudon
  • signed FIRMIN-GIRARD (lower left)
  • oil on canvas 
  • 39 3/8 by 59 in.
  • 100 by 150 cm


Berko Fine Painting Gallery, Knokke, Belgium
Private Collection, Belgium (acquired from the above circa 1985)
Thence by descent 


Paris, Salon, 1884, no. 1046
Paris, Exposition Universelle, 1889, no. 670


Courrier de l'art, vol. IV, March 1884, p. 134
The Athenaeum, vol. 2945April 1884, p. 449
Paul de Katow, "Avant le Salon," Gil Blas, no. 1609, April 11, 1884, p. 2
Albert Wolff, "Salon de 1884. Salle III," Le Figaro, no. 121, April 30, 1884, p. 2
Henry Fouquier, "Le Salon de 1884," Gil Blas, no. 1626, May 1, 1884, p. 3
Edmond Jacques, "Le Salon de 1884," L'intransigeant, no. 1387, May 1 1884, p. 1
Mitaine de Soie (Alice Regnault), "Bloc-Notes Parisiens. Le vernissage en trois actes," Le Gaulois, no. 654, May 1, 1884, p. 1
"Le Salon de 1884," La lanterne, no. 2608, June 1884, p. 2
Emmanuel Ducros, Une cigale au Salon de 1884: quatrieme année, Paris, 1884, p. 23-6
"Salon de Paris de 1884," Lyon-revue: recueil littéraire, historique & archéologique: science et beaux-arts, vol. VI, 1884, p. 381
Théodore Véron, Dictionnaire Véron, Salon de 1884, Poitiers, 1884, p. 156
Charles Perkins, Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, vol. II, New York, 1888, p. 144
G. Vapereau, Dictionnaire universel des contemporains contenant toutes les personnes notables de la France et des pays étrangers, Paris, 1893, p. 679
Paul Girard, Firmin-Girard, par son petit-fils, Orléans, 1988, p. 26, no. 106, illustrated


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is in remarkably good condition. It is unlined on its original stretcher. There are no structural reinforcements on the reverse of the canvas. Although there is a hint of a vertical stretcher mark in the sky in the center, there is no instability or any need for structural work to the painting. The work is dirty with a yellowed varnish. There do not appear to be any retouches. This work could be hung as is, but it would respond to cleaning.
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

Marie-François Firmin-Girard’s career was launched at an early age; at sixteen he entered the School of Fine Arts in Paris and the workshops of Charles Gleyre and Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1854, and within five years he was exhibiting at the Paris Salon, was awarded the second Grand Prix de Rome in 1861, and established his own studio on the Boulevard de Clichy. The artist’s Salon submissions followed the shifting trends in public taste from historical subjects and scenes taken from the Siege of Paris to more fanciful Japonisme and Orientalist themes, to works that celebrated the sights and culture of Paris. While many of the early compositions earned accolades, his 1876 submission, Le Quai aux Fleurs (sold in these rooms, May 9, 2014, lot 14) would propel him to international fame. By the time that he presented his ambitious, panoramic canvas Le dimanche au Bas-Meudon at the Salon of 1884, he was already very well established. This painting was so well received that he chose to exhibit it again at Paris’ Exposition Universelle of 1889. Unseen in public for well over a century, the reappearance of Le dimanche au Bas-Meudon provides fresh insight into the work of Firmin-Girard and, as was likely his aim, invites an appreciation of the pleasures of Paris and its environs during the artist’s lifetime.

In Le dimanche au Bas-Meudon, Firmin-Girard illustrates the crowds that gather on a late summer Sunday afternoon at the riverside brasserie, La Pêche Miraculeuse (fig. 1). The restaurant was a magnet for Parisian artists and writers, who enjoyed the summertime ritual of visiting this rural escape once or twice per week. As a contemporary writer describes, early in the afternoon artists would close their workshops on the rue d'Assas, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, the boulevard du Montparnasse, Rue de Vaugirard and others, and would travel on foot or by rail, bringing their students and models with them. Some would go strolling in the woods, while others might swim in the Seine, and at eight o'clock they would meet at the restaurant. Seated at tables occupying the first and second floors with an Italian loggia overlooking the Seine and its islands, beautiful food was brought in steaming tureens, and the din of artistic discussion would never stop in the falling night (as translated from Alfred Pallier, “Quelques Souvenirs a propos de Falguiere,” Minerva, March 1, 1902, vol. 1). The restaurant was famous for its fried goujons, minnow-like fish that were plentiful in the Seine (and which Firmin-Girard may show in the tank that is held on the balcony). In his memoir of life in Paris, A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway describes his appreciation for the fried delicacy: “One of the best places to eat them was at open-air restaurant built out over the river at Bas-Meudon where we would go when we had money for a trip away from our quarter. It was called La Pêche Miraculeuse and had a splendid white wine that was a sort of Muscadet. It was a place out of a Maupassant story with the view over the River as Sisley had painted it." (Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition, 2010, p. 43-4) Indeed, Alfred Sisley's La Seine au bas-Meudon, painted in the autumn of 1878 at the height of his involvement with the original Impressionist group, possesses all of the hallmarks of a great Impressionist landscape, with the light reflecting off the water and filtering through the clouds. While Sisley positions himself in the hills looking back at La Pêche Miraculeuse, Firmin-Girard’s perspective is anchored by the vibrant group of Parisians escaping the hustle of the city and enjoying a leisurely afternoon in the suburbs.

As is the artist’s trademark, Firmin-Girard takes enormous pleasure in describing every detail of the scene and rewards careful viewing. From the crisp folds of the tablecloth covered in baguette crumbs and half-drunk glasses of red and white wine, to the red parasol of the most distant figure highlighting the changing color of the leaves on the banks of the Seine, this work is a tour-de-force. A poem published upon its exhibition at the Salon suggests that a number are known artists and friends of Firmin-Girard, including Paul Vayson, Prosper Galerne and Paul Sain populate this assemblage of characters, perhaps posing as a baguette-wielding waiter who unscrews a bottle of wine for the jolly-faced revelers drinking it (Ludovic Baschet, editor, Une Cigale au Salon de 1884, quatrième année, Paris, 1884, p. 25). Firmin-Girard has also included his own parents who are joined by his son and daughter, who reaches down to pet a white cat. The other children have abandoned their seats to appreciate l’homme orchestre, the busker piled high with drums and cymbals, bells hanging from his hat and a pan flute strapped under his chin, who plays the hurdy gurdy (fig. 2). A young girl passes a seashell in front of patrons, collecting tips and confirming the audience’s appreciation.