A Young Woman with a Fan
Property from a European Noble Family
La Rochelle 1825 - 1905
A Young Woman with a Fan
oil on canvas
canvas: 25 1/2 by 21 1/4 in.; 65 by 54 cm.
framed: 32 ½ by 28 ½ in.; 82.5 by 72.3 cm.
The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes art Conservation, Inc.:
This work is in excellent condition. The canvas is still on its original stretcher. There is a faintly visible horizontal stretcher mark beneath the chin. The paint layer is clean and varnished. There are two small retouches in the dark grey immediately to the right of the head, and two in the forearm in the lower center. The paint layer is un-abraded. The work should be hung in its current state.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
William Bouguereau had a reputation for selecting the most beautiful models in Paris. His sitters needed to be as exceptional as his paintings, and finding the ideal face and figure was not always an easy process. As the artist explained: “I have work ready and waiting. But how many works remain uncompleted because I cannot find the model I dream of.” 1
Depending on the models' attributes, physical aspects of several women could be combined in a single, final painting’s figure. Through a series of sketches and drawings, Bouguereau would first work out form, light, and shadow before turning to paint a study of the model’s head. This complex technique was even more remarkable when considering the account of Bouguereau’s student, Robert Marc, who remembered the artist painting such studies in as little as four hours.2
Young Woman with a Fan is on a somewhat larger scale than many of Bouguereau’s head studies, and the artist’s highly finished portrait of porcelain skin, pink lips, and downward glance is joined with further work on the placement of hands and positioning of figures gently opening a fan, and loosely sketched dashes and brushy swoops to outline the model’s costume, while an additional curved line suggests the work possibly would have been painted within an oval. While the artist considered oil studies a critical step in his process, he did not intend them to be seen outside his studio. Yet in its mix of finish and more expressive elements, Young Woman with a Fan reveals Bouguereau’s brilliant eye, technique, and personality. It has not yet been determined if the present work inspired a finished painting or if the composition was unfinished and set aside by by the in-demand artist, who routinely worked on several compositions at once. When asked how many paintings he had done, Bouguereau replied “I don’t know the exact number, but if I said six hundred, I wouldn’t be far off. And look, these portfolios are full of all kinds of sketches and studies. I’ll never be able to turn them all into paintings; for that I’d need… many more years than I have ahead of me.”3
1 “M. Bouguereau chez lui,” L’Éclair, 9 May 1891, as quoted in D. Bartoloi and F. Ross, William Bouguereau, His Life and Work, New York, 2014, p. 470.
2 Bartoli and Ross, William Bouguereau, p. 472.
3 “M. Bouguereau chez lui,” L’Éclair, 9 May 1891, as quoted in Mark Steven Walker, “Bouguereau at Work,” William Bouguereau 1825-1905, exhibition catalogue, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1984, p. 76.