19th Century European Art

19th Century European Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 23. JEAN JOSEPH BENJAMIN CONSTANT | LA FILLE DE CÉSAR.


Auction Closed

October 13, 06:58 PM GMT


20,000 - 30,000 USD

Lot Details




1845 - 1902


signed Benjamin-Constant and dated 1877 (lower left); signed B.C. and inscribed La fille de César (on the reverse)

oil on panel

panel: 22 by 14 3/8 in.; 55.8 by 36.5 cm

framed: 31 1/2 by 23 5/8 in.; 80 by 60.1 cm

Hercules Louis Dousman II, St. Louis, Missouri (and sold, his sale, George A. Leavitt & Co, New York, May 8, 1884, lot 33, with incorrect dimensions)

Robert Isaacson, New York

Winthrop K. Edey, New York (by 1975)

Clara Harrison Stranahan, A History of French Painting, New York, 1879

Edward Strahan, ed., The Art Treasures of America, Philadelphia, [1879-1882], facsimile edition, 1977, vol. III, p. 60

While securing a reputation in Europe, Jean Joseph Benjamin-Constant also courted American patrons to build his international celebrity. While the elite of the Gilded Age frequented his Paris studio, the artist made six extended trips to North America between 1888-1895. Benjamin-Constant’s base was in New York, and he set up a studio at 830 Fifth Avenue on the premises of his dealer Boussod, Valadon, and Cie, though his paintings could be found in collections across the country, including the expanding wealth centers of the Midwest (Janet M. Brooks, “For Fame and Fortune, a French Painter in the New World,” Benjamin-Constant, Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism, exh. cat., Musée des Augutins, Toulouse; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, October 4, 2014-May 21, 2015, p. 313-4). The artist painted a series of commissioned portraits of Consuelo Vanderbilt, in addition to the Gould and Drexel families, and his luminous Orientalist compositions and highly detailed views of Byzantium and ancient Rome added a worldly and exotic flair to many American collections.   

La fille de César joined Benjamin-Constant’s Sultan’s Favorite, along with paintings by artists such as William Bouguereau, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, and Alexandre Cabanel, in the collection of Hercules Louis Dousman II (1848-1886) of St. Louis, Missouri. Dousman was a member of one of Wisconsin's most illustrious frontier entrepreneurial families, their fortune amassed through the American fur trade and later the expansion of railroad and lumber production. At the age of twenty-two, after his father’s death, Dousman began to spend his inheritance rebuilding the family home in Prairie du Chien, entering the upper echelons of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and, later, St. Louis society. Through these connections, Dousman began his art collection purchasing about 90 paintings between 1871 to 1881. The artworks were hung in Dousman’s private gallery, constructed in 1879, adjoining his St. Louis home, which he opened on occasion to the public. By the early 1880s, Dousman’s interests turned away from art and back to Prairie du Chien, where he built stables and a racetrack, planning to devote his time to breeding Standardbred horses. Much of his vast collection was sold at auction in 1884 in New York, where the present work was vividly described in the catalogue: "Caesars daughter, garbed in cloth of gold, bedecked with jewels and with a haughty stamp of her dainty feet, is making her way to the allotted seat, where she and her Emperor father will gleefully watch the sport of Christian martyrs thrown to the lions and gladiators… Perhaps in a few minutes the life of some conquered… [prisoner] will be trembling in the balance and depending upon her kind word in the ear of her imperial parent, or upon the movement of her thumb.”