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    Sale 7703

    Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper

    5 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 157

    Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)

    Les mystérieuses

    Price Realised  


    Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
    Les mystérieuses
    signed, dated and inscribed 'LES MYSTERIEUSES P.DELVAUX 12-81' (lower right); signed and inscribed 'Ceci est une peinture à l'huile sur papier représentant "Les mystérieuses". Boitfort, le 11-2-82-P.Delvaux' (on the reverse)
    oil, watercolour, wash and pen and India ink on paper
    30¼ x 42½ in. (76.7 x 107.8 cm.)
    Executed in December 1981

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    Charles van Deun has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

    An exceptionally large gouache from the latter part of Delvaux' career, Les mystérieuses epitomizes the essence of the artist's work: his life-long obsession with the erotic nature of women.

    Seven nude women, representing different types of female beauty, are shown bust-length. Young and representing a rather Nordic type of beauty, they are characterised by their long and slim body, very pale skin, straight hair, and round large eyes. Typical of Delvaux's work, the women are looking neither at each other nor at the beholder. They are arranged in a frieze with no real interaction between them, all looking downwards or sideways, absorbed in their own thoughts.

    In 1987 Delvaux explained that the nudes in his paintings: '[are] purely as a presence without any particular role. They form part of the pictorial structure, the aim of which is purely poetic; they are attractive only in the lyrical sense; they have no mission in the picture beyond that of the poetic' (Jacques Meurice, Paul Delvaux, Sept dialogues, Brussels, 1987, pp. 22 & 58).

    In its dense composition, with neither a complex architecture nor a deeply receding space, Les mystérieuses recalls Delvaux's three early paintings of 1928, Les filles dans la fort, Femmes devant la mer and Jeune Filles, where he depicted nude women for the first time, thus marking the beginning of his life-long treatment of the subject.

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    A gift from the artist to the previous owner in the late 1980s; sale, Christie's, London, 5 February 2008, lot 596 (GBP 162,500).


    Osaka, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Paul Delvaux, 1989; this exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, Tokyo, Himéji and Yokohama.
    Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Rétrospective Paul Delvaux, 1991.
    Osaka, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Centenaire de Paul Delvaux au Japon, 1997; this exhibition later travelled to Yamaguchi, Chiba, Kyoto and Tokyo.
    St. Idesbald, Musée Paul Delvaux, Portraits et autoportraits, 2004; this exhibition later travelled to Niigata, Miyazaki, Fukuoka, Nagoya and Fukushima.
    On loan to St. Idesbald, Musée Paul Delvaux, 2006-2007.