Born in Paris in 1847, Victor Gilbert's natural ability as an artist was recognized early, but his family lacked the financial resources to send the young man to the École des Beaux-Arts. Rather than enrolling in the École, Gilbert was apprenticed to Eugene Adam as an artisan painter and decorator. His only formal education was evening classes with Pierre Levasseur at the École de la ville de Paris. Perhaps it was his early immersion into la vie quotidienne that formed the basis for his later choices of subject matter in his art, that of the markets and streets of Paris.
In the present painting the artist returns to one of his favorite themes – a Parisian flower seller – but, rather unusually for Gilbert’s oeuvre, he renders the scene as a nocturne. Here the elegant women and their children who might have been found browsing the marchande’s wares by day have instead been replaced by gentlemen and their dates out enjoying a stroll over the Pont Neuf on a warm Parisian night. The diffuse moonlight which illuminates the scene and the sparkling lights of Pont au Change beyond the figures imbue the painting with a feeling of both intimacy and immediacy. The painting offers both a charming snapshot of life in Paris at the turn of the century, and a beautiful depiction of the timeless appeal of the City of Lights.
We are grateful to Noé Willer for confirming the authenticity of this work.