Lot 42
  • 42

Théodore Jacques Ralli

40,000 - 50,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Théodore Jacques Ralli
  • The Offering
  • signed Ralli (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 55 by 47cm., 21½ by 18½in.


Vassilis Korkolopoulos
Private collection, Greece


Giannoula Kaplanis, Tobacco Boxes from the V. Korkolopoulos Collection, Athens, 2004, illustrated on the cover
Maria Katsanaki, Le Peintre Théodore Ralli (1852-1909) et son oeuvre, Doctoral Thesis, Paris, 2007, vol. I, p. 291, mentioned; vol. II, p. 562, no. 366, catalogued & illustrated; vol. III, fig. 99, illustrated

Catalogue Note

The present work is indeed one of Ralli's most erotically charged works. Sitting languidly on a throne is a young girl, entirely naked. The incense burning to the left has induced her into a deep sleep, as petals drop to the floor from her open hands. While contemplating this work one cannot disregard the ambiguity of the title and ask oneself what is the offering, whether the flowers, brought to the altar by the young girl, or the girl herself, offering her body to the divinity in a moment of ecstasy. Whatever the meaning, this ambiguity certainly adds a layer of sensuality to this intriguing and beautiful work.  

Born in Constantinople, Ralli pursued a thoroughly international career. While Paris became his home early on, throughout his life he travelled frequently to Greece and the Middle East, often spending the winter months in Cairo. From the 1870s he trained alongside other foreign painters in the studio of leading pompier painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, whose legendary draughtsmanship and photographic finish provided a model of perfection Ralli emulated with great success.

Ethnographic precision and exactitude were Ralli's guiding principles, yet his compositions are enhanced by a fine sense of narrative and a delight in the exotic. Like Gérôme he returned time and again to scenes from the hammam, whose voyeuristic associations assured strong commercial appeal. As Maria Katsanaki noted, 'Ralli showed a special preference for the moments of relaxation and enjoyment which followed the ritual of bathing. In these scenes he depicts his models with luminous velvet skin lying about languidly, towelling themselves gracefully or stretching coquettishly'('Images of the Orient in Greek Painting' in Marina Lambraki-Plaka ed., Four Centuries of Greek Painting, Athens, 1999, p. 95).