Lot 13
  • 13

Jean-Baptiste Greuze

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Jean-Baptiste Greuze
  • "L'Effroi," a young girl, bust-length, with her hair tied in a red scarf
  • oil on canvas, unlined
  • 16 x 13 inches


Count Nicolas Demidoff (1773-1828), Villa San Donato, Florence;
By descent to his son, Anatole N. Demidoff (1812-1870), Prince of San Donato, Villa San Donato, Florence;
His sale ("Collections de San Donato"), Paris, Pillet, 24 February 1870, lot 115 (sold for 11,200 FF);
Probably Prince Grigory Gagarin (1810-1893), St. Petersburg (according to an inscription on the reverse).


Possibly Moscow, 1892 (no. 32, from the collection of Prince Gagarin).


J. Martin, Oeuvre de J.-B.Greuze; catalogue raisonne [de l'oeuvre peint et dessine] suivi de la liste des gravures executees d'apres ses ouvrages, Paris 1980, cat. no. 451 (described as ""L'Effroi. H. 0m41. L. 0.33 Physiognomie exprimant l'épouvante... provenant de la collection du prince Nicolas de Demidoff, vente San-Donato, 11 200 francs. Gravé par Courtry pour cette vente").


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 is in very good condition overall. The canvas is unlined. The paint layer is noticeably dirty, although it has been more recently partially cleaned in the lighter colors of the face and neck, and along the inner folds of the white collar on the right side. Although some weakness will become apparent in the dark hair to the right of the forehead, and in the dark background in the upper left, there is no reason why the picture should not be properly cleaned.
"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

Greuze often painted close-up, expressive studies of heads, or têtes d'expression, as a method of exploring a range of emotions, often to use in his larger compositions. The present painting, called l'effroi, or "fright," depicts a young girl turned to the side, nervous and scared but in a subtle, not hyperbolic, manner.  Greuze was unmatched in his ability to capture emotion in a realistic and empathetic sense.

The painting comes from the collection of Count Nicolas Demidoff who, along with his son Anatole, assembled one of the greatest private art collections of the 19th century.  Nicolas's father, Nikita Demidoff, had been a friend and patron to Greuze, and Nicolas in turn owned more than 20 paintings by the artist.  In 1815, Nicolas became the Russian Envoy in Florence; built a grand Palladian palace, the Villa San Donato, outside the city and filled it with his ever-growing art collection.  He favored French 18th century art, a school that was highly esteemed in Russian aristocratic circles and, in addition to paintings by Greuze, his collection included numerous works by Boucher, Fragonard and Vernet.  Upon his death in 1828, his estate was divided between his two sons, Paul and Anatole.  Anatole remained in Tuscany and continued adding to the family art collection with a predilection for contemporary French painters such as Delacroix, Ingres and Delaroche.  In poor health during the last decade of his life, Anatole began to disperse some of his collection in auctions in the late 1860s, with the major portion, including the present painting (fig. 1), sold in a series of sales in Paris in 1870 shortly before he died.  

Another version of the present composition was sold at Christie's New York, 27 January 2000, lot 144.  A pastel of a similar composition, but without the hair tied in a red scarf, is at the Musée du Louvre, Paris (fig. 2, inv. no. RF 41293).