Lot 7
  • 7

JAMES ENSOR | Les quatre tempéraments

60,000 - 80,000 EUR
75,000 EUR
bidding is closed


  • James Ensor
  • Les quatre tempéraments
  • signed ENSOR (lower right), titled Les quatre tempéraments (lower centre) and inscribed POETIQUE EPIQUE SARDONIQUE and SCHNIQ (upper)
  • charcoal on paper


Théo Hannon, Brussels (his sale: Salle Aeolian, Brussels, December 26, 1916, lot 80)
Y. Breckpot, Antwerp (aquired at the above sale)
J. Beuckeleers, Antwerp
Galerie Atelier (Franz Aerts), Ostende
Sale: S.A. Servats N.V., Brussels, May 18, 1993, lot 127
Willy D'Huysser (acquired at the above sale)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1988


Antwerp, Kunst van Heden, 1921, no. 85
Venice, XV. Esposizione Biennale Internationale d'Arte, 1926, no. 96
Antwerp, Koninkljik Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, Retrospectieve James Ensor, 1951, no. 2, listed in the catalogue p. 37
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich & Antwerp, Koninkljik Museum woor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, James Ensor, 1983, no. 139
Kobe, Museum of Modern Art, James Ensor, 1983-84, no. 23


Gisèle Olliger-Zinque, Ensor par lui-même, Brussels, 1976, no.8, pl. 14, illustrated p. 93

Catalogue Note

According to the theory of humours developed in Hippocrates's treatise, health varies according to the balance of humours in the body. The ancient Greeks believed there were four humours: yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm. According to their importance, they determined the four fundamental temperaments the "sanguine", "choleric", "melancholic" and "phlegmatic".

In a satirical drawing made in 1881-1882, the young Ensor depicted the theme and interpreted it in a personal fashion. For him, the four temperaments range from "poetic", "epic", "sardonic", and "schnic". The "poetic" temperament is embodied by a stylish young woman, who resembles his sister Marie (1861-1945) or his friend and patron Mariette Hannon (1850-1926) the wife of Ernest Rousseau, doctor and dean at the Université Libre in Brussels. The "epic" temperament is embodied by the artist himself. That James Ensor qualified his temperament this way says much about the image he had of himself. The third figure embodies the "sardonic". He could be the Belgian painter and poet Théo Hannon (1851-1916), the brother of Mariette Rousseau. The fourth figure is qualified as "schnic". It could be Willy Finch (1854-1930), painter and fellow citizen of James Ensor. In James Ensor's letters to Mariette Rousseau at the beginning of the 1880s, the Ostend painter described Finch's love of "scnick", a German word for a white alcoholic drink of bad quality.

Xavier Tricot