Lot 148
  • 148


600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • Full Speed
  • Signed JL Stewart and dated 86 (lower right) 
  • Oil on canvas Painted in 1886.
  • 76 1/8 by 59 1/4 in.
  • 193.5 by 150.5 cm


James Gordon Bennett, Jr., Paris (acquired directly from the artist in 1886) 
Private Collection, Paris (acquired from the above) 
Private Collection, France (acquired from the above in 1959) 
Thence by descent 


Paris, Salon des artistes français, Paris, 1886, no. 2233 (lent by James Gordon Bennett, Jr.) 
Berlin, Verein Berliner Künstler, Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, 1891, no. 2072 (probably; titled In voller Eile)


Albert Wolff, Figaro-Salon, Paris, 1886, illustrated p. 86 
"Full Speed," in Harper’s Bazaar, New York, May 7, 1887, illustrated p. 332
Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Julius Leblanc Stewart: American Painter of the Belle Époque (exhibition catalogue), Vance Jordan Fine Art, New York, 1998, illustrated p. 42


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: While this work is certainly very presentable in its current state, a re-examination of the restoration would make a notable difference. The canvas has an old glue lining, which is slightly uneven in places, particularly across the bottom edge. The paint layer is very heavy, and it seems that the artist intentionally scraped and distressed the paint layer in some areas, and applied glazes in others, particularly in the sky. In the upper right, there are three or four horizontal breaks in the canvas, each running about 2 inches or so, which show retouches that could be improved. There is a fairly large pentiment above the hat of the pilot of the ship, where the shape of the hat was presumably changed by the artist, which has been retouched. The top and inside brim of the existing hat also seem to have required retouches. The shadowed face of the same figure and other spots here and there throughout the composition have received retouches to address slight weakness, particularly to the glazes. There are restorations along the bottom edge to some losses and broken glazes. The signature in the lower right is unretouched, and most of the flowers in the lower right are also in very good state. Ideally, the lining would be changed in order to create a better surface and correct the wave in the canvas along the bottom edge, and the work would be cleaned to remove the thick varnish and allow for more accurate retouching to be applied. However, the work could also be hung as is.
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

Julius LeBlanc Stewart’s Full Speed depicts an outing on the Seine among friends aboard the Hassan, a steam launch owned by the artist’s devoted patron and fellow American expatriate, James Gordon Bennett, Jr. Seen at left reclining in an elegant suit, Bennett was a larger-than-life character of the Belle Époque, a millionaire newspaper tycoon who owned The New York Herald, a popular daily that reported on current events and sensational scandals alike. In 1877, when Bennett made Paris his permanent home, he began to cover the social scene in a European edition of the publication, detailing the parties and travels of those in his circle. Commissioned by Bennett, the present work’s first owner, Full Speed offers a rare glimpse into the fashionable lifestyle of American society in Paris during the Belle Époque.   The vessel Hassan achieved some recognition through a series of seven short stories published in the Herald in August 1890 entitled "From Puteaux to Rouen," which humorously detailed the adventures and mishaps of five American ladies on a cruise up the Seine. Of the Hassan, the narrator wrote, "she is a saucy craft with white awnings over her light blue sides and leather cushions on the seats, and she cuts the water straight as an arrow" ("From Puteaux to Rouen," in The New York Herald (European Edition), August 4, 1890, p. 3). It is probable that one of the ladies on board, and in turn one of the ladies in Full Speed, was Lillie Langtry, the British-American socialite, actress and former mistress to the Prince of Wales. The costume of the central figure resembles an illustration featuring Lillie that was published in the first episode of "From Puteaux to Rouen" (see fig. 1). Bennett and Langtry, both close friends of Stewart, were featured in multiple compositions by the artist, one of the most celebrated being the monumental On the YachtNamouna,” Venice (see fig. 2). Like the short stories published in the Herald, Stewart’s paintings are parallel episodes from his adventurous social life, featuring his friends and outings. While many of his other large-scale Salon submissions, such as Five O’Clock Tea (1884) and The Hunt Ball (1885), depict crowded parties and boisterous gatherings, Full Speed situates the viewer on board the Hassan, sharing an intimate view among glamorous friends.

The painting achieved international success almost immediately. After its exhibition in the Paris Salon des artistes français in 1886, Full Speed almost certainly traveled to the 1891 International Art Exhibition in Berlin, where Stewart was awarded a gold medal. A black and white engraving of the work was published in a spread in Harper’s Bazaar on May 7, 1887, where it was described as a "seductive and charming" work, and Stewart was recognized for having "the profoundest interest in happy, well-dressed men and women outdoors in the sunshine, delineating them and their surroundings with exquisite and refined fancy." As the writer concluded, Stewart is a true "'modern,' and his pictorial talents concern themselves not with great moving dramas like Delacroix, but with the society drama" (Harper’s Bazaar, op. cit., p. 332).

Known only through the engraving published in the Figaro-Salon of 1886 and Harper’s Bazaar, and a smaller compositional study (sold in these rooms on May 31, 1984), Full Speed has remained untraced since the late nineteenth century. Exhibited today for the first time in over a century, Full Speed is an extraordinary rediscovery among Stewart’s enduring artistic legacy.