Lot 391
  • 391

Édouard Vuillard

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Edouard Vuillard
  • Femmes dans un restaurant
  • signed E. Vuillard (lower right)
  • distemper on canvas
  • 130.5 by 101cm., 51 3/8 by 39 3/4 in. (oval)


Le Grand Teddy Café, Paris (on view between 1918-22)
Jos Hessel, Paris (acquired in 1922)
Charles B. Cochran, London (probably acquired from the above in 1926)
Doris Zinkeisen, Suffolk
Robert Warren, Ipswich (acquired by 2005)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007


Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Art Contemporain Français, 1926, no. 241 (titled as Au Restaurant)


The canvas is lined. UV examination reveals some spots of retouching to the central lady's hat, body, and to the right hand side of the lady's head. There are some tiny spots of paint loss to the lower central part of the composition, particularly to the flowers, and to the lower right rim. There is some minor craquelure and some associated paint loss to the upper left quadrant, and some stable craquelure to the yellow pigment.The canvas is very gently undulating at the centre of the upper part. This work is in overall good condition.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A re-discovered masterpiece by Edouard Vuillard, Femmes dans un restaurant was created in 1918 as a partner to the artist’s celebrated canvas Le Grand Teddy, commissioned for the Parisian café of the same name. Francis Jourdain, son of the architect Frantz Jourdain, had requested that Vuillard create a set of three panels for this new establishment on rue Caumartin, and the artist quickly became wholly absorbed in the project. On 21st February 1918 he noted down his preliminary ideas and impressions concerning the commission: ‘Preoccupation [with] restaurant décor, American, the floral borders [verdures], effects of mirrors [,] daylight and artificial lighting… tea at the Rotonde, interest in my subject’ (quoted in: Antoine Salomon and Guy Cogeval, Vuillard, The Inexhaustible Glance, Critical Catalogue of Paintings and Pastels, Milan, 2003, vol. III, p. 1286). Significantly for the later attribution of the present work, Vuillard also noted that he was working on two small ovals alongside the larger canvas, writing on 21st December 1918: ‘Undertake execution [of] small ovals, the oysters and the café’ (quoted in ibid., p. 1288). Although Vuillard was celebrated for his paintings of Parisian life and society, depicting the inhabitants of its café society frequently within his art, the commission for Le Grand Teddy remains one of his most significant expositions of the genre, with Cogeval noting that ‘Le Grand Teddy… is the most passionately Art Deco of all Vuillard’s works’ (ibid., p. 1287). The present work was included in an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1926, and prompted lavish praise from a contemporary critic: 'Edouard Vuillard, the poetic painter of interiors, is also an artist after Impressionism. The oval composition of a restaurant scene, a row of young women on a red couch in front of a yellow background, sitting at a table decorated with flowers, is characteristic for this intimate painter of modern life and one of the best works in the exhibition…’ (De Telegraaf, 10th July 1926).

Whilst the large version of Le Grand Teddy depicts the interior of the café from a wide and sweeping angle, celebrating the café and its patrons in the glory of its heyday, Femmes dans un restaurant is an altogether more intimate and carefully composed scene. Within its unusual oval format, several elaborately dressed women sit in a row on a red velvet bench, seemingly absorbed in conversation with each other. The table in front of them is attractively adorned with food, drink and other decorative objects, and the overall impression is one of warmth and welcome. Vuillard employs a striking perspective, almost as though the viewer is looking through a window at the cosy scene within the café interior. The women remain apparently unaware of the onlooker’s gaze, a conceit frequently employed by the artist as Kimberly Jones notes: ‘Vuillard's women are perpetually absorbed in their occupations and... remain totally unconscious of the presence of the artist and the gaze of the viewer’ (Guy Cogeval, Édouard Vuillard (exhibition catalogue), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 2003, p. 131).

Femmes dans un restaurant features a particularly fascinating recent history. Author and scriptwriter Keith Tutt had always loved the work of Vuillard, and in 2007 was convinced that a painting of un-confirmed attribution which was being offered for sale at a local auction room was an example of the artist’s œuvre. So determined was he to prove his belief in the work’s authenticity that, after carrying out extensive research of his own, he contacted the makers of the British television programme Fake or Fortune in order to enlist their help. The team, led by Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce, invoked the power of scientific analysis alongside the help of respected Vuillard experts in order to build up an extremely convincing body of evidence which served to definitively confirm the attribution. Further extensive research allowed the team to trace the intriguing provenance of Femmes dans un restaurant back to the time of its creation. After Le Grand Teddy closed in 1922, it passed into the hands of Jos Hessel, Vuillard’s long-term friend and dealer, before moving into the collection of celebrated theatre impresario Charles B. Cochran. Whilst in Cochran's collection it was viewed by Walter Sickert, who is reported to have declared it 'the finest example of Vuillard's work' he had seen. Afterwards it was owned for a time by the artist Doris Zinkeisen, whose self-portrait resides prestigiously in the collection of the National Gallery in London, before being acquired by art dealer Robert Warren and offered for sale at a local auction house, where Mr Tutt acquired it. After reviewing the comprehensive research dossier put together by the Fake or Fortune team and Mr Tutt, the painting was declared authentic by the Wildenstein Institute in a thrilling climax to the extraordinary history of the painting to date.