The engagement of French art with contemporary life was a hallmark of the late 19th century, or the Belle Époque. The Parisian artist Victor Gilbert received critical acclaim for his astute depictions of a cross-section of Parisian society and he is considered one of the greatest chroniclers of Les Halles, Paris’ renowned and bustling meat and fish market, emerging in the 1880s as the primary artist to record this famous Paris landmark. Gabriel Weisberg writes, ‘Gilbert was familiar with Naturalist literature, especially with the novels of Émile Zola. He was aware of the author’s view of Les Halles as a symbol of the dynamism and energy of Paris (G. Weisberg, The Realist Tradition, Cleveland, 1980, p. 217).
Just as Gilbert recorded the dynamism of a large public marketplace, so too did he concentrate on images of recreation and leisure, scouring the city’s parks and suburbs capturing the new Parisian social life. L'Horoscope presents Gilbert as a true naturalist who faithfully records what he encounters. Rather than the gritty and sometimes gruesome details of the meat market in central Paris, here he concentrates on a group of fashionably dressed young women who are spending their afternoon amongst the flowers in a verdant park, gossiping and speculating on their future by reading the love lines in each other’s palms. L'Horoscope demonstrates the same fascination with la Parisienne as fellow artists James Tissot and Alfred Stevens.
We are grateful to Noé Willer for confirming the authenticity of this work.