Description: signed EDOUARD DETAILLE and dated 1883 (lower right) oil on canvas
Dimensions: measurements 63 by 86 3/4 in. alternate measurements 160 by 220.3 cm
Provenance: Sale: Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 16, 1896, lot 58
Jules Gouin and Marie-Thérèse Gouin née Singer, Paris (acquired at the above sale)
Robert Gouin, Paris (by descent from the above, his father)
Countess Elizabeth Chevreau d'Antraigues, Paris (acquired from the above, her husband)
Thence by descent to the present owners (grandchildren of the above)
Notes: We thank François Robichon, Président de l'Association des Amis d'Edouard Detaille, for providing additional catalogue information and for confirming the authenticity of this lot which will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work. Please note this lot will be sold unframed.
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PROPERTY OF MR. JEFFREY GOUIN ADAMS AND MS. JOY GAZZOLI, NÉE ADAMS
The panorama of the battle of Rezonville, painted in collaboration by Édouard Detaille and Alphonse de Neuville, was completed in 1883, thirteen years after one of the most decisive events of the Franco-Prussian war on August 16, 1870 (fig. 1). On that day, over a twenty-kilometer front, German soldiers engaged the defending French, with more than 30,000 men ultimately losing their lives in the course of the fighting while villages burned and fields were destroyed. Detaille, who served in the Garde Mobile (France's army reserves during the Franco-Prussian war), witnessed battle first-hand. These memories, re-enforced with photographs, allowed him to paint the majority of the panorama's figures in exacting detail, while de Neuville worked from sketches and built large portions of the landscape (fig. 2, John Milner, Art, War and Revolution in France, 1870-1871, New Haven, 2000, p. 46-7). While the two artists also completed a panorama of the battle of Champigny during the same period, Rezonville was particularly important to Detaille, who called it "one of the most interesting things I have done. Here I have painted a true battle" (translated from the French as quoted in Jean Humbert, Edouard Detaille, l'héroisme d'un siècle, Paris, 1979, p. 13). The artists designed the expansive format of their composition to surround and to visually and psychologically involve the viewer. In its totality, this large painting incorporated various scenes of battle, from mundane moments of soldiers at rest to important military heroes engaging on the field. In the present work, one fragment of the overall panorama, muscular horses ridden by powerful, stoic-faced soldiers, seem to run out of the picture space, dust swirling from their hooves. Taken to Vienna in 1883 for temporary exhibition at the Praterstrasse through 1887 and returning to Paris from 1887 to 1890, the panorama was initially intended for La Société du Panorama National's exhibition space on 5, rue de Berri (where Champigny had first been installed). Yet by the 1890s the chic fad for panorama viewing began to fade; with visitor numbers decreasing, the expense and logistics of such huge displays became less financially viable. As such, the Panorama de Rezonville was cut up into pieces for sale at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris on May 13 and June 16, 1896 (François Robichon, "Les panoramas de Champigny et Rezonville par Edouard Detaille et Alphonse Deneuville" in Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, 1979, n.p.). Though pressed before the sale Detaille refused to sign the fragments, likening their cutting to a massacre (Humbert, p. 16). However, he made an exception for a select group including the present work, sold as Chasseurs de la garde, first owned by industrialist Jules Gouin who also purchased what is considered Renzonville's most important fragment, Le Genereal Henri, Chef d'Etat-Major du 6eme corps, Le Capitaine de Randal, de L'artillerie, et d'auture officiers (sold as lot 53 in the Georges Petit sale and now in a private collection). The date of 1883 was most likely added around the time of the sale, and marks the date of the panorama's completion. The section of the panorama in which Chasseurs de la garde is featured was clearly an important focal point of the overall work: on the cover of the May 21, 1891 edition of Le Vie Populaire, Detaille is pictured in front of this area (fig. 3). This stretch was also replicated in the Musée Grevin's vignette in which a wax figure of Detaille was shown completing the panorama (joined by the equally famous statues of Jean-Leon Gérôme, William Bouguereau, Carolus Duran, Jean-Paul Laurens, Alexandré Cabanel and Jean-Georges Vibert) a testament to the artist's popular and historical achievement (fig. 4, see: Vanessa R. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1998, p. 104-105).