Léon Bonnat (1833 - 1922)

Lot 26: LEON BONNAT (FRENCH, 1834-1922) An Arab plucking a Thorn from his Foot


October 30, 1992
New York, NY, US

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Description: signed Ln. Bonnat. lower right - - oil on canvas 55 x 41 1/4 in. (140 x 105 cm.) PROVENANCE Painted to order and acquired directly from the artist by William H. Vanderbilt (late 1870s); sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, April 18 and 19, 1945, lot 152 (illustrated) Edmund G. Burke, gift to Denison University, Granville, Ohio, 1945. EXHIBITED New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1886-1903 LITERATURE E. Benezit, Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, Paris, 1976, vol. 2, p. 159 E. Strahan, Mr. Vanderbilt's House and Collection, Philadelphia, 1883, vol. 3, p. 16 (illustrated in two photogravures one showing the whole painting, another illustrating a view of the gallery with the painting on exhibition E. Strahan, Art Treasures in America, Philadelphia, 1879, vol. 2, p. 107 Bonnat was born in Bayonne, France, but raised and educated in Spain. Like many painters of his time he was attracted to the naturalism of the 17th Century Spanish School and in particular Velasquez and Ribera. Bonnat started exhibiting at the Salon in 1857, where he soon became one of the most honored artists. In 1866 he was proposed for the Medaille d'Honneur, of 195 votes Bonnat received 49, Carpeaux 38 and Corot 23. Bonnat's prestigious career was marked by a number of official honours. He became a member of the Institute de France and President of the Societe des Artistes Francais in 1881, Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1882 and was appointed Director of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1905. Arab plucking a thorn from his foot, probably dates from the late 1870s and was executed after Bonnat's first and only journey to the Near East. He travelled throughout Greece, Turkey, Palestine and into Egypt where he saw the opening of the Suez Canel. Many painters took these tours, and Bonnat was surrounded by other artists such as Jean-Leon Gerome who was highly regarded by the artistic establishment. The demand for exotic scenes on the European market was increasing in the 1860s and there was a great interest in the Orient. This painting was originally owned by the premiere 19th Century American Collector, William H. Vanderbilt. In his 1883 catalogue of the Vanderbilt Collection, Edward Strahan wrote the following about the painting: "The princely-looking Bedouin, sitting against a rock, and retaining his full share of desert majesty while disembarrassing an aristocratically-formed foot. The modeling of this figure is quite a masterpiece of science. The eye passes with satisfaction into all the recesses of the form, comprehends the planes, the reliefs, the undertakings, nay, escapes around and behind the figure. This is a painting in its aspect as a science, understood by Bonnat as few living men understand it - - simple in subject and intricate in information about the subject - - the painter's brush competing with the sculptor's modeling-tool in the expression of reality and the definition of a solid object." (E. Strahan, in Mr. Vanderbilt's House and Collection, p. 16.).
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