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Lot 37: Emile Jean Horace Vernet (Paris 1789-1863)

Old Masters & 19th Century Art (Evening Sale)

by Christie's

December 7, 2010

London, United Kingdom

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Description: Emile Jean Horace Vernet (Paris 1789-1863)
A tethered chestnut horse in a landscape
signed and dated 'H Vernet 1828' (lower left)
oil on canvas
32¼ x 39½ in. (82 x 100.8 cm.)

Notes: VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.
Horace Vernet was one of the greatest equestrian painters of his age, sharing a passion for horses with his great friend Théodore Géricault. Both artists worked with broad, shimmering brushstrokes which brilliantly render the energy and tension of their subjects.

Vernet's talents and rapid ascension are ascribable in part to his illustrious antecedents: he was born in the lodgings and studio shared by his father, the military and sporting artist Carle Vernet (1758-1836), and his grandfather, the marine painter Joseph Vernet (1713-1789). Encouraged to draw from a very young age, Horace was sent to complete his formal training in the studio of the Academic painter François-André Vincent.

Very talented at adapting to the changing social and political climate of Restoration France, Vernet enjoyed the support of both Napoleon, who awarded him the Légion d'Honneur, and of the young duc d'Orléans, whose patronage gained him access to the Salon in 1812, and countless commissions once the duc acceded to the throne as King Louis-Philippe in 1830.

Vernet's first major equestrian commission came in 1813, an order to paint 20 portraits of horses from the Imperial stables at Versailles, rendered in poses similar to that of the present work. Géricault was executing similar commissions for Napoleon at the same time, and the resulting cross-influence between the two artists--already close friends since meeting in Carle Vernet's studio in 1808--was particularly fertile.

The first owner of this painting, the wealthy Baron Schickler, was a banker of Swiss origin who moved in the highest Parisian social circles. He and his wife Marguerite-Angélica-Davida acquired the famous hôtel Crozat on the Place Vendôme in 1828. As part of their redecorating programme, the Schicklers filled their home with art by artists such as Wouwermans, David, Gérard, Isabey and Michallon, and with numerous, mostly equestrian paintings by Carle and Horace Vernet, Géricault, and Eugène Delacroix. Schickler's passion for horses and closeness to the Vernet family was such that he lent six of his most beautiful animals to lead Carle's funeral cortège in 1836.

The present work is one of numerous paintings recorded in Vernet's account books between 1824 and 1828, where it appears as 'un cheval pour M. Schickler'. It was probably commissioned directly from the artist by Schickler, and would represent one of the finest horses in his stables. The chestnut thoroughbred appears slightly startled, nervously eyeing the spectator. The pose and anatomical accuracy clearly hark back to the horse paintings of George Stubbs, while the sweeping brushstrokes of the background are strikingly similar to the landscapes of his friend Géricault.

Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by Jean-Georges Schickler (1793-1843) for Fr. 1500, and by descent.
Anonymous sale; Tajan, Paris, 18 December 2002, lot 55, when acquired by the present owner.

Literature: A. Dayot, Les Vernet, Joseph, Carle, Horace, Paris, 1898, p. 209.

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