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    Sale 2058

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    4 December 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 59

    John Lewis Krimmel (1789-1821)

    Parade of the Victuallers

    Price Realised  


    John Lewis Krimmel (1789-1821)
    Parade of the Victuallers
    signed and dated 'J.L. Krimmel. pinx. April 1821' (lower right)
    watercolor on paper
    14½ x 24 in. (36.8 x 61 cm.)

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    The first genre painter in America, John Lewis Krimmel produced many remarkable views of his adopted city, Philadelphia, where he resided from 1809 to 1821. With its high finish and celebratory tone, Parade of the Victuallers ranks among his finest works.

    Painted in 1821, the present work commemorates a livestock parade turning the corner of Fourth and Chestnut Streets in the center of Philadelphia's mercantile district. Annaliese Harding describes the lively scene: "The representation of horses is given even billing with that of the riders and marchers. Their astonishing number and naturalistic depiction is the more remarkable since at the time horses appeared infrequently in American art, except in military scenes. The first stretch of houses on the right side of the street is visible in sharp detail as is the main throng of spectators on the left." (John Lewis Krimmel, Winterthur, Delaware, 1994, p. 214)

    In painting the procession as it turns a corner, Krimmel creates a new vantage point in developing his initial sketches into the present, finished work. He also introduces a greater complexity to the composition, which in turn "enabled the artist to show part of the procession turning and marching away, and this extra spatial extension added a three-dimensional effect that dramatically enlivened the scene. Krimmel further improved his rendition of the parade by including two of its highlights in close-up. A carriage platform is turning the corner: a band plays on the lower level, and a man stands on the upper level holding a prize bull...by the horns, above which rides a sign reading 'fed by Lewis Clapier.' Close behind comes a float with a replica of a ship...jammed with men." (John Lewis Krimmel, p. 214) In the foreground, a boy turns toward the viewer and displays a banner with a puckish message: "Pennsylvania Against the World!!" And, as if to emphasize the splendor of the event, high in the sky a hot-air balloon, at that time still a great novelty, drifts over the festivities.

    The watercolor is also exceptional for Krimmel's precise rendering of the city's architecture. In Parade of the Victuallers, writes Harding, "the emphasis is on pictorial space, as expressed by the exceedingly long view of the parade and reinforced by the volumetric and monumentalized definition of the houses. Space is rendered in a clear and tautly organized manner, correctly calculated in its systematic progression, suggesting Krimmel used the set of mathematical instruments and the camera obscura that he still owned at the time of his death. The buildings loom tall and have pronounced sculptural plasticity, their height accentuated by the chimneys and the rooftop laundry porches." (John Lewis Krimmel, p. 214)

    In comparison to Krimmel's earlier works, the figures in the crowd "possess livelier and more spirited movements," adds Harding, who writes that few figures watching the parade are still, "and some seem to step in rhythm with the band." (John Lewis Krimmel, p. 214) The throng of people, along with Krimmel's graceful depiction of the city's buildings, combine to create one of America's great early genre paintings. Indeed, soon after its completion, the picture was reproduced as an aquatint by a Philadelphia engraver, and, in subsequent years, its continuing popularity prompted two different printers on two separate occasions in the 1850s and 60s to reproduce it again as a lithograph.

    In testimony to Krimmel's importance as an artist, Harding concluded that he "was one of the few professional artists who chronicled ordinary life in the United States in the 1810s and the only one who did so consistently. His engaging and often humorous images often also contained serious commentary on contemporary life and, at times, gently moralizing details. His art, known to the picturemakers of the next generation of American artists through paintings, watercolors, or prints, inspired those who firmly established genre subjects as acceptable art in the United States. By introducing and legitimizing contemporary local topics Krimmel nudged American art out of the provincial shadows toward the mainstream of western painting." (John Lewis Krimmel, p. 221)


    Henry Whelen, Jr., Esq.
    Robert Carlen, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Private collection, acquired from the above, 1973.
    Christie's, New York, 30 November 1999, lot 26.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above.


    Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Second Annual Philadelphia Water Color Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1905, p. 53, no. 787, illustrated.
    T.E. Stebbins, Jr., American Master Drawings and Watercolors, New York, 1976, pp. 83-84, illustrated.
    Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1976, pp. 253-54, engraving of the work illustrated.
    M. Naeve, John Lewis Krimmel: An Artist of Federal America, Newark, Delaware, 1988, p. 104, no. 68 (as Procession of the Victuallers).
    A. Harding, John Lewis Krimmel, Genre Artist of the Early Republic, Winterthur, Delaware, 1994, pp. 211, 213-14, 216, 221-23, 234, 245, illustrated.


    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Second Annual Philadelphia Water Color Exhibition, April 1905, no. 787.
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1962 and 1966, on loan.