Lot 33
  • 33

Jules Bastien-Lepage

120,000 - 180,000 USD
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  • Jules Bastien-Lepage
  • Le petit ramoneur (Damvillers)
  • signed J. BASTIEN –LEPAGE and dated 1883 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 40 1/4 by 45 5/8 in.
  • 102 by 116 cm


Estate of the artist (and sold, Vente J. Bastien-Lepage, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 11-12, 1885, lot 3) 
Maurice Fenaille Collection, Paris
Private Collection (by 1940)
Thence by descent to the present owner (by 1967)


Paris, École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Jules Bastien-Lepage, March - April 1885, no. 193 
Paris, Exposition Universelle, 1889, no. 21, illustrated


C.B., “Bastien-Lepage,” Le Soir, December 12, 1884
“Nécrologie,” La Liberté, December 12, 1884
Albert Leroy, “Au jour le jour. Bastien-Lepage,” La Presse, December 12, 1884
“Jules Bastien-Lepage,” La Ville de Paris, December 12, 1884
Philippe Burty, “Jules Bastien-Lepage,” La République française, December 13, 1884
“La mort et les obsèques de Bastien-Lepage,” Journal d’Indre-et-Loire, December 14, 1884
L’Evènement, December 15, 1884
Emmanuel Ducros, “Bastien-Lepage,” L’Artiste, 1884, vol. 120, p. 390-94
Louis de Fourcaud, Bastien-Lepage, sa vie, ses œuvres, 1848-1884, Paris, 1885, n.p., illustrated (the print after Le petit ramoneur (Damvillers))
André Theuriet, ‘Jules Bastien-Lepage, L’Homme et L’Artiste’, Revue des Beaux Arts, 1885, p. 831
Armand Dayot, Un siècle d’art. Notes sur la peinture française à l’exposition centennale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1890, p. 117
André Theuriet, Jules Bastien-Lepage and his Art, A Memoir, London, 1892, pp. 69, 132, illustrated
“Jules Bastien-Lepage,” La Lorraine Artiste, July 30, 1893, p. 491
Julia Cartwright, Jules Bastien-Lepage, London, 1894, p. 71, illustrated
Henry Roujon ed., Bastien-Lepage, n.p., circa 1913, p. 64, illustrated
Fr. Crastre, Bastien-Lepage, New York, 1914, p. 60, illustrated
“Bastien-Lepage 1848-1884,” Les Peintres Illustres, vol. 47, circa 1930, p. 62, pl. VII
P. Errard, Commémoration du Centenaire de la naissance de Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884), Verdun, 1948, p. 63
W. S. Feldman, Jules Bastien-Lepage, His Life and Work 1848-1884, Ph.D. dissertation, New York, 1973, p. 175-6, illustrated fig. 67
Philippe Pagnotta, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Damvilliers 1848-Paris, 1884, exh. cat., Musée de la Princerie, Verdun and Musée, de la Citadelle, Montmédy, 1984, p. 127, illustrated
Marie-Madeleine Aubrun, Jules Bastien-Lepage, catalogue raisonné de l'Oeuvre, 1985, p. 266, no. 436, illustrated (location unknown)
Dominique Lobstein, Jules Bastien-Lepage 1848-1884, exh. cat., Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 2007, p. 39 (the 1881 engraving illustrated)


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work on canvas has been stretched over another canvas, the reverse of which shows an off-white gesso. It is unclear why there is a double canvas or whether the work is actually lined onto the other canvas, but it seems that both canvases were applied at the same time and are probably original. In the upper center, running from the left of the child's hat into the upper background, there is a restored thin scrape or break in the canvas. There is another small break between the pot on the fire on the right and the bread held by the child, and a small damage in the side of the arm chair on the right side. There is a loss between the cheek on the right side and the black clothing. The painting is more or less clean, but the restoration is not particularly good. The work can be hung in its current state, but it would improve if it were properly cleaned and more accurately retouched.
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

The social sciences, as we understand them today, are one of the principal legacies of the nineteenth century. In the modern sense, they began with the multi-volume Les Français peints par Eux-Mêmes in the 1840s and spread to Henry Mayhew’s documentation of London Labour and the London Poor two decades later.1 Both concentrated on "types" and occupations, for which artist-recorders, Paul Gavarni in one, and Gustave Doré in the other, were essential. Leading intellectuals poured over their plates, and their impact in the visual arts, in conditioning the thinking of the most radical painters of the age from Édouard Manet to Vincent Van Gogh, was enormous.

It is not surprising to find that Jules Bastien-Lepage, on regular visits to London around 1880, should have conceived the idea of painting a type très Anglais, for which a flower-seller and bootblack served.2 The same concept applied to his home village in the Meuse, where he would find a barge boy, a school-girl, a peddler and others. The present "chimney-sweep" forms part of this series.

Through it Bastien-Lepage was remaking genre painting. The diversions of a little cook or naughty schoolboy in the work of Pierre-Edouard Frère in the 1850s are brought to a much more serious conclusion in the present work. Where formerly Lepage’s country characters adopt frontal poses and are held in focus, this boy, unlike the barge boy and school-girl, is presented in situ, tempting the household cats with his frugal meal. And where formerly, such a moment would be captured on a small scale for the connoisseur’s cabinet, here the canvas is over a meter square. A poised cat, leather knee-pads, the "damper" from an iron stove, blackened hands, beautifully rendered, give more than circumstantial authenticity. They are part of the human chain that brings this character, these furnishings, in this moment, vividly alive. Naturalism, in short, achieves its fullest statement. We can almost say where precisely we are – for the chair in the background was a favorite of the artist’s grandfather (fig. 1).

André Theuriet reported that Bastien-Lepage was working on the canvas in March 1883, at the same time as he was sending his L’Amour au Village (Pushkin Museum, Moscow), an English-inspired theme, to the Salon. He declared that in this scene of rustic lovers he was hoping to express a "very English sentiment." It was not "sentimental" in our modern sense, so much as the feeling of the moment expressed objectively. In the same way with Le petit ramoneur, the coarse, maudlin amusements of Paul-Charles Chocarne-Moreau are rejected. Few around him could achieve this rigour, this linear precision, this depth of scrutiny that we find in Bastien-Lepage.

A watercolour version, presumably a study of the Ramoneur appeared in the studio sale but has since disappeared, and a fine engraving by the artist’s friend, Charles Baude, is known.

1 See for instance, Luce Abélès and Ségolène Le Men, Les Français peints par Eux-Mêmes, 1993 (exhibition catalogue, Musée d'Orsay, Paris).

2 For reference to Bastien-Lepage’s Little London Bootblack and London Flower Seller (sold in these rooms, May 7, 2015, lot 6), see Lobstein, 2007, no. 53, 55.