Paul Signac (1863-1935)

Marché de Vérone (La place aux herbes)

Paul Signac (1863-1935)
Marché de Vérone (La place aux herbes)
signed 'P. Signac' (lower right)
oil on canvas
35½ x 46 in. (90 x 117 cm.)
Painted in 1909
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (circa 1909).
Dr. Alfred Wolff, Munich (acquired from the above, 26 January 1910).
Mrs. Franzisk Wolff, Munich (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, London, 28 November 1994, lot 14.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
L. Vauxcelles, "Le Salon des Indépendants," in Le Gil Blas, 15 March 1909, p. 2.
A. Alexandre, "Les Indépendants," in Le Figaro, 25 March 1909, p. 5.
R. Chavance, "Beaux-Arts. L' Exposition des Indépendants," in L'Autorité, 25 March 1909, p. 2.
F.R. Kemp, "Au jour le jour. Les Indépendants," in L'Aurore, 25 March 1909, p. 1.
H. Pellier, "Aux artistes indépendants," in La Petite République, 25 March 1909, p. 2.
L. Vauxcelles, "Le Salon des Indépendants," in Le Gil Blas, 25 March 1909, pp. 1-2.
G. de Céli, "Le Salon des Indépendants," in La Gazette de France, 26 March 1909, p. 2.
J. Drault, "Aux indépendants," in La Libre Parole, 26 March 1909, p. 2.
F. Bataille, "Le Salon des indépendants," in Le Journal, 29 March 1909, p. 3.
J. Thomsen, "Le Salon des Indépendants," in Le Petit Journal, 29 March 1909, p. 2.
A. Raimbault, "Les Indépendants," in L'Action française, 31 March 1909, p. 3.
G. Geffroy, "Causeries. Salon des Indépendants" in La Dépêche, 3 April 1909, pp. 1-2.
E. Hoffmann, "Les artistes indépendants," in Journal des artistes, 4 April 1909.
P.N. Roinard, "Salon des artistes indépendants," in Le Coq gaulois, 4 April 1909, p. 10.
"Le Salon des Indépendants," in Montmartre La Chapelle, 17 April 1909.
R. Lestrange, "Prenez garde à la peinture S.V.P. Salon des Indépendants," in Le Tintamarre, 18 April 1909, p. 2.
L. Godefoy, "Le Salon des artistes indépendants," in La Flamme, 20 April 1909, pp. 49-58.
P. Goujon, "Les Salons de 1909 (1er article)," in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, May 1909, p. 392.
F.M., in Art et Décoration, May 1909, p. 2.
F. Cachin, Signac, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, p. 292, no. 477 (illustrated).
Paris, Grande serre de l'Orangerie au jardin des Tuileries, 25e Exposition de la Société des artistes indépendants, March-May 1909, no. 1469.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Tableaux, Aquarelles et Pastels, May 1909, no. 93.
Cologne, Städtische Ausstellungshalle, Internationale Kunstausstellung des Sonderbundes Westdeutscher Kunstfreunde und Künstler zu Köln, May-September 1912, no. 202.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Secession Europäische Kunst um die Jahrhundertwende, March-May 1964, no. 517 (illustrated in color, pl. III).

Lot Essay

In mid-February 1908 Signac and his wife Berthe left their home in Saint-Tropez and traveled to Italy, on a trip that lasted the next three months. They made stops in Camogli and Portofino, and then spent ten days in Florence before continuing on to Siena, Rome and Perugia. The Signacs arrived on 29 March in Venice, their ultimate destination, where they remained until early May as the artist made numerous watercolor studies for paintings he planned to undertake once he was back in his studio. Signac's previous stay in Venice during the spring of 1904 had resulted in thirteen oil paintings, which proved to be an important critical and commercial success for the artist--he sold almost all of them, prompting him to arrange a second trip.

As the Signacs made their way back to Saint-Tropez, they stopped on 7 May in the northern Italian town of Verona, famous for being the setting of Shakepeare's Romeo and Juliet and The Two Gentleman of Verona. Signac had passed through Verona during his first trip to Venice, and this time he paused long enough to paint some watercolor studies which would serve as the basis for Marché de Vérone.

The painter Henri Edmond Cross (see lot 71), who lived near the Signacs on the Côte d'Azur, reported to Charles Angrand on 28 May that Signac had been enthusiastically discussing the works of the Italian Renaissance fresco painters, singling out Perugino and Pinturicchio. These early masters painted large gatherings of figures placed in detailed architectural settings, using the new techniques of linear perspective. Their example likely suggested to Signac the idea of undertaking a modern equivalent, set in a contemporary Italian marketplace. He may also have recalled the lively country market scenes of his friend Camille Pissarro, who passed away in 1903.

An experienced yachtsman, Signac was admired for his marine pictures; tackling a landlocked subject that consisted mainly of architectural forms was a departure for the artist, and required a different approach to composing and filling out the canvas. Signac wrote to Cross while planning his new Verona painting: "In truth, it is harder to render human works (palaces, houses, umbrellas) than the spectacle of nature. The choices to be made are more difficult. I believe that I record too much, therefore I have to eliminate more... I will eventually find the solution." At the beginning of January 1909, Signac wrote again to his friend, "I am just starting to paint the Verona market and find it extremely difficult. The snag is that I need to avoid anecdote and the clichéd look of a postcard... If in the end it is a failure, it will have at least taught me what not to do!" (both letters translated by Ksenia Zemstova; F. Cachin, op. cit.). Signac must have judged the picture a success: it was one of his two entries in the 1909 Salon des Indépendants, where it attracted much attention and was well reviewed.

Signac has here depicted the Piazza delle Erbe, the central market square in Verona. The column of the Torre del Gardello stands in front of the the Palazzo Maffei, a baroque edifice whose rooftop balustrade is adorned with the sculptures of ancient Roman deities. Rising on the left side is the Torre dei Lamberti, the tallest bell tower in Verona. Signac rendered the piazza in a divisionist style that had evolved far beyond the original orthodox use of the pointillist dot, and now resembled the tile tesserae of the medieval mosaic decorations the artist had admired in Venice. Signac employed a small rectangular stroke of sufficient size (unlike the dot) to generate maximum chromatic vibration among adjacent tones. Seen up close, the surface of the picture appears to flatten out as the small blocks of color interact with each other, while from a distance the careful arrangement of tonal zones preserves the illusion of depth. Cross wrote, "I always experience a very painterly emotion in front of Signac's canvases... There's a play of hues in them as ravishing as happy combinations of gems, and it is his alone" (quoted in J. Leighton et al, Signac, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, p. 20).

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