View full screen - View 1 of Lot 43. WILLIAM MICHAEL HARNETT | STILL LIFE WITH VIOLIN.


Auction Closed

November 19, 04:22 PM GMT


600,000 - 800,000 USD

Lot Details



1848 - 1892


signed WMHARNETT. and dated PARIS.1885. (lower right)

oil on panel

21 ⅝ by 17 ⅝ inches

(54.9 by 44.8 cm)

Private collection, France

By descent to the present owner

In 1885, William Michael Harnett worked briefly in Paris, where he is known to have completed a version of After the Hunt and at least two still lifes on panel. According to Alfred Frankenstein, "Just when Harnett left for Paris we do not know...he set himself up at 7 rue Tourtaque; he then bought the biggest piece of canvas in town (71 by 48 inches), and started to work" (After the Hunt: William Michael Harnett and Other American Still Life Painters 1870-1900, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 1969, p. 69).

In the present work, Harnett alludes to objects related to his travels abroad, including the dated vellum book of Dante's Divina Comemedia. Writing on the importance of the objects that the artist included, John Wilmerding explains that Harnett "presented objects from contemporary experience that had been subjected to use and wear, thereby linking the past to the present" (William M. Harnett, New York 1992, p. 153). The delicate balance struck between the old and the new—the European tradition and the American experiment—echoes the sentiment of the age and is infused with subtle social commentary. As David M. Lubin writes, "Harnett’s paintings participated in the materialism of their time, but they also subtly resisted it or at least attempted to mediate it by means of their ennobling, quietly inspiring, or even down-home humorous treatment of familiar artifacts that exuded 'the mellowing effect of age.' This is not to suggest that his art was anti-modern or that it failed to take part and pleasure in the era’s adoration of accumulation and display, but only that its way of doing so—of reconciling potentially guilty consciences and abundant material success—involved dusting off old objects and bathing them in a reverential light" (as quoted in Ibid., p. 49).