Description: signed Victor Gilbert (lower left) oil on canvas
Dimensions: measurements 35 1/4 by 46 in. alternate measurements 89.5 by 116.8 cm
Exhibited: Santiago, Chile, Museo de Bellas Artes, Exposicion International de Bellas Artes, 1910, no. 48
Provenance: Private Collection, Santiago, Chile (since circa 1910)
Thence by descent
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Notes: We would like to thank Noé Willer for kindly confirming the authenticity of this work which will be included in his forthcoming Victor Gabriel Gilbert catalogue raisonné.
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Although Chile had boasted a significant art collection since 1880, it was not until 1906 that President Aníbal Pinto commissioned the French-Chilean architect Emile Jecquier to design a building specifically devoted to holding the nation's art treasures. Jecquier's El Palacio de Bellas Artes, combines a neo-classical style with art nouveau elements inspired by Paris' Petit Palais. The Palacio was officially inaugurated in September 1910 with an Exposicion Internacional des Bella Artes. Submissions came from countries throughout South America plus the United States, Japan and several European nations, with France particularly well represented. The French artist Léon Bonnat served as president of the French committee, which selected works from artists such as Marie Firmin Girard, Franc Lemy, Alexis Kreyder, and Victor Gilbert, who submitted by present work. Gilbert was popular for his compositions of children play-acting the business of being grown-up, and his The Children's Dance is a particularly elaborate, charming example. Divided by age, the eldest children take formal pose in the center, flanked by two younger groups, dancing in rings or emulating the steps of their elders. Guiding the performance is an instructress marking the beat and a conductor's full orchestra, as an audience of smartly dressed mothers looks on with proud smiles. With gleaming parquet floors, crystal chandeliers, and gilt wood decoration, this ballroom was one of the many of the Casino de Dieppe, also known as the "Versaille de le Mer," founded in 1823 and built above the rocky beaches of France's northern coastal town. After a series of renovations and additions during the late nineteenth century, the Casino became one of the greatest cultural landmarks of the Belle Époque, drawing crowds of seasonal visitors to enjoy the elaborate bath facilities, vast game halls, theater spaces and grand ballrooms. Gilbert's depiction of such an elegant space celebrating the best of French society was a fitting choice for submission to the Chilean art exhibition. According to the rules set forth by the Exposicion Internacional, any works not purchased for the museum's collection would be made available to the general public or returned to the artist. The French committee had little worry that The Children's Dance would be neglected, as a private collector soon purchased Gilbert's composition from the exhibition for inclusion in a Chilean art collection.