Lot 22
  • 22

Théodule Ribot

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Théodule Ribot
  • La diseuse de bonne aventure
  • signed t. Ribot (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 23 1/2 by 28 3/4 in.
  • 59.7 by 73 cm


Louis Mante, Marseille (and sold, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, November 28, 1956)
Mme. de Margerie
B. Buchanan
Sale: Christie's, London, June 25, 1982, lot 24, illustrated
Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, Toronto (and sold, Sotheby's, New York, May 23, 1997, lot 76, illustrated)
Acquired at the above sale


Paris, Musée du Louvre, La diseuse de bonne aventure de Caravage, June 10-August 31, 1977, no. 148


Jean Pierre Cuzin, Les Dossiers du Départment des Peintres, Paris, 1977, p. 51-2, no. 13, illustrated

Catalogue Note

As one of the more independent painters of the nineteenth century, Théodule Ribot was largely self-taught. His only recorded training was from a period in the studio of the artist Auguste-Barthélemy Glaize, and he otherwise worked a series of odd jobs to support his family, including the decoration of gilded frames and window shades, coloring lithographs and copying images of Jean-Antoine Watteau for the export trade to America.

Ribot worked at night by lamplight, creating dramatic scenes that included still lives, religious compositions, and paintings of cooks and other laborers. When composing his figural groups, he often relied on members of his family and friends to serve as available models, especially his daughter Louise (who became a still-life painter herself). Such familiar sitters allowed him to paint intimate and naturalistic canvases that reflect a deepened psychological connection with his subject. Arranged in tight groups, often against the frontal plane of the canvas, the viewer’s attention is concentrated on facial expressions and the subtle interplay of gesturing hands. Here, with her wise and time-worn complexion, the fortune teller examines the fingers and palms of a young woman as others look on, or try to decipher their own palms.

This arrangement recalls similar compositions from the seventeenth century by Caravaggio and his followers. The origins of Ribot’s interest in rich tones, and the spotlighting of certain faces or hands for emphasis, further reveals that the painter was strongly indebted to earlier traditions, such as the Spanish and Dutch Masters, Jusepe de Ribera and Rembrandt van Rijn, as well as his Realist contemporaries, Gustave Courbet and François Bonvin. The latter gave Ribot an opportunity to exhibit his paintings in his studio after they were rejected by the Salon in 1859.

We would like to thank Dr. Gabriel P. Weisberg for kindly confirming the authenticity of this lot and for contributing to the catalogue entry.