Lot 3
  • 3

Isaac Israels

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Isaac Israels
  • The Milliners' Workshop
  • signed ISAAC. ISRAELS. lower right
  • oil on canvas
  • 46 by 61cm.,18 by 24in.


Acquired by the father of the present owner in the late 1970s, thence by descent


The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Isaac Israels in de mode, 2002-03


Ietse Meij, Isaac Israels: Mannequins en mode, Wijk en Aalburg, 2002, p. 31, catalogued & illustrated (as Hoedenatelier; with incorrect dimensions of 34.5 by 60.5cm)

Catalogue Note

Painted circa 1902-03.

In 1900, thanks to an introduction from the society portrait painter Thérèse Schwartze (1852-1918), Israels became acquainted with the directors of the fashion house Hirsch & Cie. Situated prominently on Amsterdam's Leidseplein, the opening of the store in the Dutch capital in 1882 introduced French haute couture to the city. Israels' timing was perfect, coinciding with highly successful years for the fashion house as demand rose and business boomed. He had access to all areas of the business, from fashion shows and sewing studios to the fitting rooms.

Here Israels combines studied observation of the elegant girls' dextrous labour with particularly bold, rapid brushstrokes in the lower half of the composition. The forms of several hats and the draped fabric are just visible on the table in the almost abstracted, gestural broad sweeps of paint. Behind them a stylised poster shows designs for the latest fashions. Whereas Israels had earlier painted customers at night outside the Mars hat shop on the Nieuwendijk in 1893 (Groninger Museum), his experience in the 1900s allowed him to go behind the scenes. Like Degas, Israels saw the patterns of production and consumption which defined the fashion world as a synecdoche for modern urban life, allowing him to define a personal vision of modern femininity.

Another work by Israels in a private collection, illustrated in Anna Wagner's 1985 monograph (as fig. 57), depicts a girl trying on a hat in what appears to be the same studio.