Lot 25
  • 25

Giovanni Boldini

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
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  • Giovanni Boldini
  • Les Parisiennes
  • signed and dated Boldini 73 lower right
  • oil on panel
  • 31.5 by by 24¾cm., 12¼ by 9¼in.


Spencer collection 
William Henry Vanderbilt, New York (1821 - 1885; acquired from the above in 1878)
George Washington Vanderbilt II, New York (1862 – 1914; by descent from the above, his father)
Brigadier General Cornelius Vanderbilt III, New York (1873 – 1942; by descent from the above, his uncle; sale: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 18-19 April 1945, lot 41)
Berges Antiques (acquired at the above sale)
Millicent Rogers, New York and Taos (until 1953)
Private collection, USA (by descent from the above; sale: Sotheby's, New York, 23 April 2010, lot 45)
Purchased at the above sale


New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, circa 1902-1907 (on loan from George W. Vanderbilt)
New York, Adelson Galleries, Inaugural Exhibition One Hundred Years of American and European Art, 1990, no. 5 (as Ladies of the First Empire)


Edward Strahan, ed., The Art Treasures of America, Philadelphia, 1879, vol. II, p. 114 (in the 1977 facsimile edition, vol. III, p. 108)
Catalogue of the Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1905, p. 209


The panel has been cradled. It appears to be flat, even, and ensuring a stable support. Ultra-violet light reveals one spot of retouching in the lower left corner and some strokes in the lower part of the extreme right framing edge, possibly addressing some frame rubbing. Otherwise, this work appears to be in very good condition and is ready to hang. Presented in a decorative gilt frame. Colours are somewhat too red in the catalogue illustration.
"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

Les Parisiennes epitomises Boldini's series of jewel-like compositions of the salons of Empire-period homes, providing a glimpse into the leisured lives of their elegantly costumed occupants.

Here two beautiful, fashionable young ladies are shown passing a quiet afternoon in a Louis XVI-decorated study. A Flemish Classical Triumph tapestry, from Brussels of Bruges of the 16th Century, forms the backdrop to the composition, while an Anatolian single-niche prayer rug of lustrous colour is laid out on the floor. The brunette is distracted by events unfolding outside the window, while the blonde model, Berthe – Boldini's lover and muse – reads quietly. Adding to the period décor are the open secrétaire à abattant and desk chair, as well as the Gobelins woven tapestry adorning the walls. While the sumptuous setting is steeped in tradition and history, the women display a distinctly modern sensibility. Berthe reads Le Figaro and holds a lit cigarette, her casual, relaxed position denoting an air of confidence. Le Figaro, France's oldest newspaper, was founded in 1826 as a satirical weekly and took its name and motto from The Marriage of Figaro ('Without the freedom to criticise, there is no true praise').

Soon after his move to Paris in 1871, Boldini quickly tapped the American market through his dealer Adolphe Goupil, but also Samuel Putnam Avery, Knoedler & Co., and George A. Lucas in New York. Works such as Les Parisiennes were precisely what wealthy American tourists on their grand tour of Europe desired. Barbara Guidi writes: 'These modern tableaux vivant pictures enjoyed enormous success because, as the artist Francesco Netti acutely observed: "the wealthy bourgeoisie discovered themselves in these works...It was their portrait, their apotheosis" ' (Barbara Guidi, 'Arrival in Paris and the Search for Success', Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris, Ferrara Arte S.p.A. and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2009, p. 96). Indeed, the present work was passed down through three generations of the Vanderbilt family, before entering the collection of Millicent Rogers, the granddaughter of one of the original founders of Standard Oil, Henry Huttleson Rogers.