Lot 279: Léon-Joseph-Florentin Bonnat , French 1833-1922 The Artist's Palette oil on panel


April 18, 2008
New York, NY, US

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Description: Dedicated: à Madame C. Max / bien affectueusement / Ln Bonnat oil on panel
Dimensions: measurements 15 3/4 by 21 2/3 in. alternate measurements 40 by 55 cm
Provenance: Madame Charles Max (acquired directly from the artist)
Notes: The celebrated hostess Madame Charles Max invited Paris' intellectual elite to monthly salons at her home at 20 rue Jacob in Paris throughout the late nineteenth century. Frequently the evening's entertainment featured a short concert of music written by her friends Camille Saint-Saëns, Jules Massenet, Ernest Reyer or Charles-Marie Widor--with Madame Max the star performer. Many guests considered her arias and expressive theatrics equal to the professionals found on any of Europe's great stages. The power of her voice was matched by her alluring beauty and compelling personality, evocatively captured in Giovanni Boldini's celebrated portrait (1896, Musée d'Orsay, Paris). In addition to Boldini, Madame Max counted among her friends the celebrated artists Léon-Joseph-Florentin Bonnat, Jean-Jean-Joseph-Benjamin Constant and Charles-Émile-August Carolus-Duran. These three men dedicated their palettes in her honor; the trio of examples presented here remains fascinating evidence not only of the men's deep affection but of their working methods and artistic personalities. Bonnat's compact board bears messily applied pigments, still clearly visible in their deep shades blending with one another, the traces of stippled or long, heavy brush marks left in the dried paint. This is a sharp contrast to the neater, longer palettes of Carolus Duran and Benjamin-Constant , whose palette holds a particularly poetic dedication to Madame C. Max/ Nothing is sadder than a dead palette/ Yet you still desire this/the proof of a dream dried out and failed (translated from the French). Indeed as these three objects suggest, the firm board of an artist's palette often served as symbolic link between creative tools and talents. Many of Madame Max's peers in the intelligentsia held large numbers of artist palettes; the renowned American art agent and collector George A. Lucas had over seventy such examples in his 1880 inventory. Moreover, these palettes inspired public exhibitions, where viewers admired the intimate and immediate relationship suggested by these personalized and personal art objects.
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