• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2702

    Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

    24 May 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 19

    GERALDINE JAVIER (b. The Philippines 1970)

    What is hidden from Ingres' eyes

    Price Realised  


    GERALDINE JAVIER (b. The Philippines 1970)
    What is hidden from Ingres' eyes
    oil on canvas
    72 x 64 in. (183 x 162.5 cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Through the deliberate juxtaposition of unrelated, dissonant imagery, Geraldine Javier imbues her work with a sense of mystery, the darkness found inside the stillness of the heart. For her latest series of works, Javier expands the boundaries of manipulation by seeking to combine images from the highest traditions of painted art with insects presented in miniature glass caskets. In the present lot, What is hidden from Ingres' eyes, Javier pays homage to an early work by the French Neo-Classical painter Jean Dominique Auguste Ingres, The bather (also called The Valpincon bather).

    For the most part, Javier stays faithful to the essence of the original painting but resists reproduction through a number of interventions: changes in the profile of the model, the removal of conflicting perspectives, the transformation of ornamental drapes into theater-like curtains, and the insertion of two Goliath beetles preserved in wallpapered vitrines.

    Javier smoothes over the subject's profile until the outline is almost completely ovoid, like a Brancusi sculpture. The two beetles are like explorers, traversing some vast and shifting desert, keen to crest the model's shoulder to see what lies on the other side of the nude. It is not certain what the beetles will find there, perhaps a landscape of smooth hills and valleys, the frozen anatomy of a mannequin, or something even more featureless, the alien flatlands of a cardboard cut-out. And yet ironically, because Javier has merged the spiky, armored texture of the beetles with the smooth skin of the model, she has subverted the unblemished nature of the original painting, and overturned the classical objectification of the nude, restoring its humanity - the link between what was idealized in paint and what was incarnated in flesh.

    In piercing her canvas with vitrine insects, Javier is also able to pierce through The bather, unspooling the line that tethers Ingres to the present and traces it further into the past, beyond even the classical world that Ingres revered, towards an ancient age of sand and stone, when mummified beetles were worshipped and placed inside jars that held the hearts of kings. In this antique land, Javier has left behind a pair of scarabs as offerings, one for herself, the other for Monsieur Ingres.