Lot 5
  • 5

Alfred-Pierre Agache

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Alfred-Pierre Agache
  • L'Annonciation
  • signed ALF. AGACHE and dated 1891 (upper right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 55 7/8 by 41 1/2 in.
  • 141.9 by 105.4 cm


Private Collection, France
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Paris, Salon de la Nationale des Beaux-Arts, 1891, no. 1
Possibly Jahresausstellung, Munich, 1891, no. 3188 (according to a label on the reverse)
Chicago, World's Columbian Exposition, 1893, no. 264
Lille, Union Artistique du Nord, Exposition des Beaux-ArtsMarch-May 1896
Paris, Exposition Universelle: L'Exposition Décennale des Beaux-Arts 1889 à 1900, 1900, no. 14


"Salon de 1891," Art Français, no. 233, October 10, 1891, illustrated
Antonin Proust, Le Salon de 1891, Paris, 1891, p. 67
Margaret Sangster, "The Annunciation," Harpers Bazaar, vol. XXV, no. 18, March 26, 1892, p. 242, illustrated p. 249
Halsey C. Ives, World's Columbian Exposition, 1893: official catalogue, Chicago, 1893, p. 97, no. 264
Charles M. Kurtz, Illustrations from the art gallery of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, p. 83, illustrated
"Religious Art in the World's Fair," The Unitarian, vol. VIII, 1893, p. 415
Lucy Monroe, "Chicago Letter," The Critic, June 10, 1893, p. 391
Catalogue officiel illustré de l'Exposition décennale des beaux arts de 1889 à 1900, Paris, 1900, p. 241, no. 14
Henri Frantz, Le Salon de 1900 l’Exposition Décennale, Paris, 1900, p. 87 
La Famille, March 16, 1902, illustrated on the cover
Gustave Kahn, "Artistes contemporains, Alfred Agache," La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, August 1906, p. 130-1
Eusébia Garit, Alfred Agache: un langage symbolique en marge du symbolisme, Ph.D dissertation, Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille, 2010, vol. I, p. 216-8, illustrated fig. 126, vol. II, p. 787-8, no. 38, illustrated


This painting is in original, unlined condition. Thin, finely patterned stable craquelure visible in isolated areas. On the reverse there are five old, finely applied patches in the lower part of the painting, four of these are about 1 inch square and one is 1 by 4 inches. Under UV: finely applied inpainting fluoresces in the sky and to address stretcher bar marks, as well as areas of inpainting which correspond to aforementioned patches, and additional fine lines of inpainting to both figures' faces with additional strokes in hair and costume
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

While little is known about Alfred Agache’s personal biography, he was widely exhibited and highly honored during his lifetime. Born in Lille, Agache seemed destined to inherit his family’s successful textile business; in 1872, however, his artistic ambitions and incisive curiosity led him on a long journey throughout Europe and on to Egypt, India and Japan, and this exposure to distant cultures would solidify his ambition to become a painter. Agache joined the Academic School of Art in Lille upon his return in 1874, where he studied under Henri-Eugène Pluchart and Alphonse Colas, and he made his debut the following year at the Salon, 1875. 

Agache's works are distinguished by the harmonious arrangement of spare elements.  He gravitated towards bold compositional strategies and an idiosyncratic symbolism that intrigued and mystified contemporary audiences.  He exhibited regularly at the Salon, and in 1885 he was awarded a third-class medal for his powerful allegorical scene La Fortune (Lille, Musée des Beaux-Arts), which was promptly acquired by the state. In this full composition, Agache abandoned the traditional imagery of the blindfolded young woman (see Quinsac’s Allegory of Fortune, lot 14), and depicted Fortune as an indifferent ruler, seated high on a throne in front of her golden wheel and surrounded by the desperate or greedy masses.  In 1888, he exhibited the overtly Symbolist and mysterious L’Énigme (1888, Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, fig. 1), which the Athaneum described as “magisterial in style and a superbly painted allegory we do not pretend to understand” (“The Paris Salon,” The Athenaeum, June 16, 1888, no. 3164, p. 767). The iconographic elements, including an Egyptian motif painted on the wall (possibly referencing the vulture goddess Nekhbet) and a bronze vessel of giant red poppies, are unusual and perplexing, and offer little clarity on a letter held by the veiled figure standing in dramatic silhouette against a fiery background.

More familiar imagery can be found in the present work, L’Annonciation, in which Agache has adapted an intimate pictorial approach. The Virgin is seated on a terrace, with a book of prayers in one hand and gesturing modestly with the other, her downcast eyes hardly meeting the angel who appears before her. As in many of his other major works, the artist has placed his subject against a wide expanse of saturated color: a cerulean lake stretching to the horizon, meeting a cloudless expanse of azure sky enclosing the scene in a dome. Tranquility, mysticism and peace permeate the scene, consistent with Agache’s best works. L’Annonciation earned the artist significant praise when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1891 and a gold medal at the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago and again at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, where it was exhibited alongside the artist’s 1896 Salon submission L’Épée (1896, Art Gallery of Ontario, fig. 2).