Lot 123
  • 123


80,000 - 120,000 GBP
168,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita
  • Foujita et Madeleine
  • signed in Japanese, dated Tokio 23 dec 1933 naissance du Prince Héritier and titled (upper right)
  • pen and brush and ink and watercolour on silk


Private Collection (acquired in Paris by 1970)
Thence by descent to the present owner

Catalogue Note

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita met dancer and singer Madeleine Lequeux in Paris in 1930. He was charmed by her vivacious personality, sensuality and striking colouring: piercing blue eyes and golden red hair. Although he typically worked in a monochrome palette – renowned in particular for his chalky white fond blanc ground – Foujita frequently opted to depict Madeleine in colour.

Madeleine and Foujita soon afterwards left Paris together to travel around South America, before settling in Tokyo in 1933 and setting up a studio and home in the garden of the artist’s sister. As in Paris, they courted publicity in Tokyo and provided much fodder for gossip columns. Madeleine made a name for herself in Tokyo as an authentic singer of chansons and together they graced the social scene as a radiant celebrity couple - known as much for their respective careers as their tempestuous relationship. When Madeleine suddenly returned to Paris, Foujita reassured journalists: ‘Three years away makes her feel nostalgia for home. The reason marriages between Japanese men and foreign women don’t work out is that the men don’t send the women back home every once in a while’ (quoted in Phyllis Birnbaum, Glory in a Line: A Life of Foujita – the Artist Caught Between East and West, New York, 2007, p. 184). Indeed, Madeleine did return, lured back by the rumour that Foujita had embarked on a new relationship with a local woman. The artist went to meet her on her arriving ship, whereupon local news reported an ensuing theatrical fracas: Madeleine stalked around on deck naked, raging at the artist, pitching cameras at photographers and hurling glasses at the walls (Phyllis Birnbaum, ibid, p. 185). Despite this inauspicious reunion, the artist and Madeleine reconciled and Foujita was known to be devastated when his lover and muse died unexpectedly in 1936.

The present work captures Madeleine’s beauty: her distinctive colouring and hypnotic eyes. She gazes to her right in parallel profile with the cat, alluding to Foujita’s frequent conflation of the respective characters of cats and women: their shared grace, beauty and languor as well as their capriciousness and capacity for spite. The artist himself gazes back knowingly at the viewer, him and us in complicit sympathy, demonstrating Foujita’s skilful ability to convey humour in his portraits while losing none of their sensuousness and delicacy of execution.