• Old Master & 19th Century Pain auction at Christies

    Sale 2282

    Old Master & 19th Century Paintings, Drawings, & Watercolors

    27 January 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 308

    Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier (Lyon 1815-1891 Paris)

    The Stirrup Cup

    Price Realised  

    Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier (Lyon 1815-1891 Paris)
    The Stirrup Cup
    signed and dated 'JEMeissonier 1864' (lower left)
    oil on panel
    6 x 4½ (15.3 x 11.4 cm.)


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    Ernest Meissonier began his career designing wood-engravings for book illustrations. This practice of creating highly detailed images on a very small scale informed his later work as a fine artist. Meissonier commanded enormous prices during his lifetime as a painter of miniature genre scenes and historical subjects executed with microscopic precision. Meissonier's diminutive images were so popular in fact that the critic Charles Baudelaire declared that the artist had created 'a taste for littleness' among the nouveaux-riches. Meissonier's renown led to numerous awards throughout his life, including positions as the President of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the president of the jury of the 1889 Exposition Universelle Internationale in Paris and the Grand-croix in the Légion d'Honneur.

    The Stirrup Cup illustrates Meissonier's virtuosity in rendering historical genre scenes with meticulous attention to detail on a miniature scale. Meissonier had treated a similar subject in his most notable early work Dimanche à Poissy (fig. 1), which depicts men in eighteenth-century dress enjoying an outdoor game of tonneau. In 1860, Meissonier took up the specific subject of a horseman stopping for a drink at an inn at least twice in Halt at an Inn, now in the Wallace Collection and Le Tournebride en forêt de St.-Germain, now in the Musée d'Orsay.

    In 1865, Meissonier again returned to this subject in The Roadside Inn (fig. 2) also in the Wallace Collection. The careful depiction of light and lengthening shadows in the present painting is particularly notable among this group of related works. These elements play an important compositional role, drawing the eye into the image and towards specific narrative details such as the innkeeper's wife and baby waiting in the doorway.

    Provenance

    William T. Stewart, Paris, by 1887; his sale, New York, 3-4 February 1898, no. 112.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 16 March 1994, lot 266.
    Private collection, Connecticut,
    From whom purchased by the present owner.


    Literature

    M.O. Gréard, Meissonier, ses souvenirs, ses entretiens, Paris, 1897, p. 399.
    H. Mireur, Dictionnaire des ventes d'art, Paris, 1911, p. 149.
    C. Formentin, E. Meissonier, sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris, 1901, p. 15.


    Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Meissonier, March 1884, no. 64
    Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Meissonier, March 1893, no. 1128