S otheby's annual spring sale of 19th Century European Art takes place online from 4-11 June. The auction includes works representing the rich diversity of the 19th Century – from Academic art to Orientalism, Barbizon to Sporting – with notable compositions emerging from private collections for the first time in decades.
Sotheby's presents a curated selection of works from some of the most notable artists of the 19th century.
This event is led by Charles Sprague Pearce’s evocative composition Sainte Geneviève, first exhibited in the 1887 Salon des Artistes Français and more recently known from notable exhibitions in the United States and Europe. The Boston born Pearce found inspiration in the French countryside, while fellow Americans Julius Leblanc Stewart captured the Riviera in his The First Spring and Edwin Lord Weeks explored India with his Before the Hunt. These highlights join those by William Bouguereau, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, Jean-Léon Gerôme, John William Godward, Sir Alfred James Munnings and other compositions from a diverse group of artists painting throughout a century of great innovation, exploration, and celebration of cultural achievement from the industrial revolution to the Belle Époque and beyond.
The present work was first exhibited at the 1887 Paris Salon, where it further propelled the artist's international career; through the end of the 19th century the work continued to be exhibited through Europe and the United States, becoming an icon of his oeuvre. The artwork depicts the youth of the patron saint of Paris, who lived a life of constant prayer and austerity, and captures the artist’s devotion to Naturalism.
Bouguereau painted the present work in the late 1860s, at a moment when his life was as joyful as the one he depicts. Sensitively captured rustic genre scenes such as this, painted with the artist’s Academic precision and sensitive use of light and shadow, illustrate why there was such a demand for his works throughout the late 19th century.
Estimate $300,000 – 500,000
Below, click the spots to explore different aspects of this masterful scene.
- The Favored Mare
This dark-grey mare, named Magnolia, is a favored horse with whom Munnings was pictured in the front piece of his autobiography, The Second Burst.
- An Unmistakable Landscape
In 1931, Munnings submitted a trio of Epsom works to the Royal Academy: a larger version of the present work, Going Out at Epsom and an earlier version of A Winner at Epsom. On Munnings's submissions, The Illustrated London News commented:
"'Monet's landscapes,' it has been said, 'are never general. He always paints a particular and unmistakable place.' Mr. Alfred Munnings, it will be noted, has not shrunk from identifying the scene of his racing subject.""The Royal Academy, 1931: The 'Spirit of Place'; and Sport," in 'The Illustrated London News,' May 9, 1931, p. 786
One of the horses, Chips, stays calm as he's walked towards the right of the work.
- "My Best Subject"
Unsaddling at Epsom, Summer Meeting (Study) depicts the frenzied moments at the conclusion of a race at Epsom Downs, southwest of London.
In his autobiography, The Second Burst, Munnings wrote that "'Unsaddling' was my best subject," and he returned to the Downs often to observe the whirlwind of activity surrounding the races.
"Epsom – a grand word – stirs memories of months of work following Epsom weeks in 1929 and 1930...I write this on the lawn, with the reproduction of the picture [Unsaddling at Epsom] taken from the wall of the library leaning against the stake of a standard rose."Sir Alfred J. Munnings, 'The Second Burst,' London, 1951, p. 296-97
This mare, Glenesky, was acquired from the Newmarket Sales as a three year old.
- Munnings's Favorite Model
The man shown here in the blue and white silks, unsaddling the mare Glenesky, is Tom Slocombe, Munnings's favorite model.
- Helpful Handyman
Rudge, the handyman pictured here, holds the mare Glenesky steady while the jockey, Tom Slocombe, removes her saddle. Rudge drove the horse-box, and is dressed in a suit borrowed from the artist himself.
- The Favorite Model (Pictured Again...)
Pictured here in yellow and white silks is Tom Slocombe, Munnings's favorite model (Slocombe is also the model for the jockey to the left, in the blue and white silks).
- The Kaffir
Seen in the background of the work is The Kaffir, an animated horse.