Lot 26
  • 26

JEAN-JULES-ANTOINE LECOMTE DU NOUŸ | The harem's gate, souvenir of Cairo

400,000 - 600,000 EUR
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  • The harem's gate, souvenir of Cairo
  • 75 x 130,5 cm ; 29 1/2 x 51 3/8 in.
oil on canvas ; signed and dated lower left LECOMTE DU NOUY 1876


Galerie Georges Petit, Paris ;
Collection of M. le vicomte Daupias, Lisbon ;
His sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 1892, lot 143 ;
Sale, London, 3 November 1977, lot 59 ;
Purchased at the above by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent


Paris, Salon, 1877, n°1267 ;
London, Royal Academy of Arts ; Washington, National Gallery of Art, The Orientalists : Delacroix to Kandinsky. The Allure of North Africa and the Middle East, 1984, cat. 86 ;
New York, Dahesh Museum of Art, From Homer to the Harem : the Art of Jean Lecomte Du Nouÿ, 2004, fig. 101 (illustration of a detail of the painting p. 58, and illustrated in full p. 105, fig. 101;
Brussels, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo Kulturstiftung, Marseille, Centre de la Vieille Charité, L'orientalisme en Europe, De Delacroix à Matisse, October 2010 - August 2011, illustrated p. 297 in the exhibition catalogue


Ernest Boysse, article in La Patrie, 1876 ;
L. E. Duranty, "Réflexions d'un bourgeois sur le Salon" in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, July 1877, pp. 79-80 ;
Henry Houssaye, "Le Salon de 1877 - II" in La Revue des Deux Mondes, Paris, 15 June 1877, p. 844 ;
Guy de Montgailhard, Lecomte du Noüy, Paris, 1906, p. 53 and p. 121 (as belonging to M. le vicomte Daupias) ;
Lynne Thornton, Les Orientalistes peintres voyageurs, Paris, 1983, illustrated pp. 188-189 ;
Philip Hook and Mark Poltimore, Popular 19th Century paintings, a dictionary of European genre painting, Woodbridge 1986, illustrated in color p.57;
Hugh Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art, Cambridge, 1989, IV-2, pp. 174-176, fig. 129


We want to thank Michael Robinson from J.H. Cooke and Sons for having kindly examined the painting and made a condition report : The painting was examined in strong artificial light, in a raking light, under magnification and under ultra violet light. The painting has been lined with paste onto a linen canvas. The lined picture has four neat repairs that are both to the original and the lined canvas. The repairs, measuring around 4 cm each have been well made. They are in plain with relatively little associated paint loss. The adhesion within the work appears good and the picture structurally stable. The paint surface is covered in a thick layer of discoloured varnish layer. Examination under UV light reveals retouching to the 4 canvas repairs previously mentioned and only a few minor touches elsewhere.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Jean-Jules Antoine Lecomte du Noüy studied with Charles Gleyre, and then with Emile Signol, before entering Jean-Léon Gérôme's studio who would influence him throughout his career. Already, at the age of thirty, Lecomte de Noüy had met with considerable success. At the end of his studies, his passion for antiquity grew, and he travelled to the East (visiting Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Anatolia), bringing back with him very precise archeological documentation that he continually used for his works throughout his career. He also travelled to Algeria in 1883. From his studies and sketches made throughout his travels, Lecomte du Noüy painted his large works presented at the Salon (cf. Elizabeth Cazenave, Les artistes de l'Algérie, Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs 1830-1962, p.300). Lecomte du Noüy drew from this documentation for all the details and the accessories. At the Salon in 1877, he exhibited this painting, one of his most ambitious and accomplished works. Remarkable for both its complex composition and richness of detail, the artist combined a technical perfection reminiscent of Ingres with a photographic realism worthy of Gérôme, based on his wealth of documentation, to which he continually referred. The painting depicts the entrance of a harem at dawn: the sun is rising and, with it, the guards. The calm light of morning floods the composition: the birds fly gently towards the sky on the left, whilst one of the guards lights his first cigarette. The jaguar, on a step in the background, is on the watch: its green eyes and pink muzzle contrast with his black fur.

In 1876, Ernest Boysse (op. cit.) describes the painting as the following: "This painting, which touches upon one of the mysterious sides of oriental life, is a very remarkable work through its treatment of colour in general, which has both charm and harmony, and through the strangely ranked types of robust characters, [...] to whom the master entrusts the guard of his wives without concern". Duranty, in 1877 (op.cit.), notes that "the model is very precise, the colour is matt, firm, the scene very strange, the arrangement of taste and skill; the deep shade veils well, without obscuring them, the blue and green earthenware which play richly in tone with the rug, under the oblique rays of the rising day, whilst the sunlight haloes the distant buildings whose foundations are highlighted by the grey dawn."