Lot 158
  • 158

Jacques-Albert Gérin

120,000 - 160,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jacques-Albert Gérin
  • The Magus Balthazar
  • signed and dated on the reverse of the canvas: J Gerin pinxit / 16?9
  • oil on original canvas


Private collection, France.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work seems to be unlined. The texture of the paint layer is very fresh and lively. The colors have retained most of their brilliance. The varnish should be quite glossy, as it is at present. The texture of the canvas is noticeable. Under ultraviolet light, there are very few retouches of any note. The only concentration is in the background in the upper left. The top edge and the left edge show retouches. It is possible to improve the texture of the paint without lining the canvas, but the painting is certainly very attractive as is.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This striking image depicting Balthazar, one of the three Magi, is a rare extant painting by Jacques-Albert Gérin who worked in and around the city of Valenciennes.  In his Biograhpies Valenciennoises (1826), Gabriel Hécart identified Gérin as the young Antoine Watteau’s first teacher when the latter began artistic studies in his native city.1  Gérin enjoyed a successful career there, receiving official commissions from the city, as well as from churches and convents in the region. He also designed a series of tapestry cartoons representing episodes from the life of Saint Giles, patron saint of Valenciennes.  Aside from the present lot, there is only one other known surviving painting by Gérin: the large oil on canvas (273.6 by 189.9), depicting Saint Giles Healing the Sick, signed and dated 1691, in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes.

Unlike in Netherlandish painting of the 17th century, the depiction of an African model as the main subject is rare in French art of the period.  This portrayal would appear to be the earliest known portrait of a black man in French painting.  Gérin renders with great skill the sumptuous silk and embroidery of Balthazar’s robes and turban.  The directness of his gaze and the large scale of the figure within the picture plane give an immediacy and power to Gérin’s sympathetic portrayal.

1.  See N. Parmentier, "The Friends of Watteau," in Watteau, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C. 1984, p. 36.
2.  Ibid.