Sale: Drouot Richelieu, Paris, March 22, 1990, lot 187, illustrated (as Étude pour Saint Vincent de Paul) Sale: Artcurial, Paris, March 26, 2014, lot 85, illustrated Acquired at the above sale
This beautifully rendered and highly finished drawing is related to William Bouguereau’s monumental contribution to La chapelle de la Vierge in the Église de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Paris. While the first stone of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul was laid in 1824, it was twenty years until the church was consecrated and the first services were held, and the decorative scheme, including a 160 figure decorative frieze around the nave by Hippolyte Flandrin, began in earnest in the 1850s.
Bouguereau had already provided decoration for the Basilique Ste-Clotilde and Église Saint-Augustin de Paris when he was asked in 1881 to create eight large-scale paintings to fill La chapelle de la Vierge behind the choir. The cost of the commission was shared by the church and the City of Paris, which required Bouguereau to submit sketches to the Fine Arts Administrative Commission for approval. Given the high degree of finish and fidelity to the completed painting, it may be that the present work is one of the drawings submitted to the Administration. The careful attention to such details as the decoration of the fans that punctuate the background and the filigree work on the crowns of the Magi and the censer that they bear define this superb drawing.
Before their installation, the oil L’adoration des Mages was shown as a diptych with La Visitation at the Salon of 1885. The popularity of the pair of works was such that an engraving of the two, executed by Gautier, was issued by Boussod & Valadon in April 1887.
Pencil on paper. The work is hinged to the mat along the upper edge. There are markings by an unknown hand in the margins. The sheet is irregularly cut and there are a few scattered pinholes, losses and tears at the extreme edges, the most notable being a loss at the center right extreme edge. There is scattered foxing throughout and mat staining around the edges. 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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.