Lot 3
  • 3

Giovanni Boldini

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 USD
Sold
399,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Giovanni Boldini
  • In the Garden
  • signed Boldini and dated 74 (lower left)
  • oil on panel

Provenance

Ortgies & Co., New York
Knoedler & Co., New York, no. 6805 (acquired from the above, April 1891, as Feeding Chickens
J.J. Gillespie & Co., Pittsburgh (acquired from the above, May 1891) 
Acquired from the above through the Prendergast Bequest, 1891

Exhibited

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library, Dedication Loan Exhibition, 1895, no. 18

Literature

"Art Galleries and Societies," American Art Annual, Boston, 1900-1, vol. III, p. 114
Descriptive Catalogue of the Art Gallery of the James Prendergast Library Association, 
Jamestown, New York, 1906, no. 28
Katherine E. Manthorne, The Mirror Up to Nature: A Catalogue of 19th and 20th Century Paintings in the Collection of The James Prendergast Library Association, Jamestown, New York, 1982, p. 6

Catalogue Note

Boldini painted In the Garden in 1874, three years after he settled in Paris at the Place Pigalle, a decision that would propel him onto an international stage and prompt the export of many of his most important paintings to America. Within a month of arriving in the French capital, the artist switched dealers from Reilinger to Adolphe Goupil, and turned away from public exhibitions such as the Salon to focus on art intended for buyers.  Wealthy Americans were building ambitious collections—quickly and with huge resources—and Boldini was connected to them through Goupil as well as a network of influential dealers and galleries, including Samuel P. Avery, George A. Lucas, and Knoedler & Co. in New York.  By the late nineteenth century, Boldinis hung in the private galleries of William H. Stewart (father of the artist Julius LeBlanc Stewart, see lot 58), Henry Gibson, and William Vanderbilt (see lot 13), among many others, and the publicity surrounding their collections only increased the demand for his work.  While the earliest provenance of In the Garden has yet to be discovered, less than twenty years after it left the artist’s studio, it was recorded as sold by Knoedler to renowned Pittsburgh gallery J.J. Gillespie & Co. (for the substantial price of $1,100).  Gillespie was actively sourcing the era’s most important European art for Jamestown, New York’s James Prendergast Library where in the Garden has hung since 1891 as the vibrant centerpiece of the collection.

Through much of the 1870s, Boldini painted intricate interiors decorated in eighteenth century style and populated by elegant women in period costume, suggesting the influence of historical genre paintings by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (a close friend) and Mariano Fortuny, as well as a large number of contemporary scenes of young women engaged in leisurely domestic pastimes (Sarah Lee, ed., Nineteenth-Century European Paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, vol. 1, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2012, p. 56). The distinctive, doll-like features of the model suggest she is Berthe (known only by her first name), Boldini’s companion and muse during his first six or seven years in Paris (Lee, p. 55).  The garden setting suggests a spontaneous outdoor scene—with its vines growing across a trellis, scattered leaves, and casually placed potted plants, together with the model’s bemused smile and outstretched hand dropping just-shelled peas to be stolen by a rooster. At the same time, the well-studied costume and props point to a composition realized in the studio. Boldini’s eye for light and color, a legacy of his Macchiaioli training, enhances the materiality of the image: the jewel-like tones of the garden greenery, the gleam of the blue and white ceramic bowl, the subtle layers of tone and the texture of Berthe’s muslin dress.  Simultaneously, the broad dabs of paint forming the sky and the loosely applied strokes of the treetops, seemingly left unfinished, together with Berthe’s casual pose, evoke the mood of a summer’s day in the French countryside (and points to Boldini’s recognition of the  burgeoning Impressionist movement).  

The garden was likely one the artist knew well: From June to September 1874, he and Berthe spent a holiday among the estates of Andrésy, near Poissy, northwest of Paris along the Seine. The model and mood of In the Garden echoes through many compositions painted that year. Berthe can be seen feeding chickens and geese in Berthe in the Hen-House (fig. 1, 1874, location unknown, see Piero Dini and Francesca Dini, Giovanni Boldini 1842-1931, catalogo ragionato, Turin, 2002, p. 133, no. 187) and lost in thought among blooming flowers in Waiting (Berthe in the Countryside) (fig 2, 1874, private collection); the oars upon which she sits in the present work anticipate Boldini's luminous paintings of rowers on the Seine in the following years. The inspiration and productivity of the period were also motivated by Avery’s visit to Andrésy to commission works from Boldini destined to enter American collections (including The Laundress, which soon entered the incredible private galleries of New York’s Alexander T. Stewart (see lot 18) (Barbara Guidi, “Landscapes,” Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris, exh. cat., Ferrara Arte, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, September 2009 - April 2010, p. 130). Such summery scenes with loosely suggested narratives easily connected with American collectors who valued Boldini's cosmopolitan sensibilities and luminous technique.
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