Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) <BR>
Tête de femme (Portrait présumé de Madame Zola) <BR>
Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)
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Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

Tête de femme (Portrait présumé de Madame Zola)

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)
Tête de femme (Portrait présumé de Madame Zola)
signed and dated 'P. CEZANNE 1864' (lower left)
oil on canvas
18 x 14¾ in. (45.7 x 37.5 cm.)
Painted in 1864
Emile Zola, Médan (gift from the artist); Estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 9-13 March 1903, lot 117.
Ambroise Vollard, Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Comte Arnauld Doria, Paris.
G. Rivière, Le maître Paul Cézanne, Paris, 1923, pp. 196 and 234 (illustrated, p. 163).
G. Mack, Paul Cézanne, New York, 1935, p. 289.
M. Raynal, Cézanne, Paris, 1936 (illustrated, pl. XLIV).
L. Venturi, Cézanne, son art-son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 72, no. 22 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 5, no. 22; titled Étude de femme).
H. Adhèmar, "Zola et la peinture" in Arts, December 1952, p. 10.
J. Cain, Émile Zola, Exposition organisée pour le 50 anniversaire de sa mort, exh. cat., Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1952, no. 52 (titled Portrait présumé de Gabrielle Meley (Mme Zola); dated circa 1864).
H. Adhèmar, "Le Cabinet de Travail de Zola" in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, November 1960, p. 297 (illustrated, fig. 13).
A. Laborde, Trente-huit années près de Zola--La vie d'Alexandrine Émile Zola, Paris, 1963, pp. 29-30.
S. Orienti, L'opera completa di Cézanne, Milan, 1972, p. 88, no. 53 (illustrated, p. 89).
L. Gowing, Cézanne: The Early Years, 1859-1872, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1988, p. 9.
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne, A Catalogue raisonné, London, 1996, vol. I, p. 84, no. 75 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 23, no. 75).

Lot Essay

The present painting was a gift from Cézanne to his close childhood friend, the Naturalist writer Emile Zola, and most likely depicts Zola's future wife, Gabrielle-Alexandrine Meley. Meley is known to have posed for Cézanne in 1864, the very year that the artist (with whom she may have had a romantic relationship) introduced her to Zola. She and Zola married in 1870, with Cézanne acting as one of four witnesses at their wedding. Although Madame Zola's godson has denied that the present painting is her likeness (A. Laborde, op. cit., p. 30), both Jean Adhmar (op. cit., 1960, p. 297) and John Rewald (op. cit., p. 84) have noted the portrait's similarity to photographs of Madame Zola, who was also portrayed by Manet in a pastel of 1879 (Rouart and Wildenstein, vol. II, no. 13; Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Cézanne painted a portrait of Zola himself in 1862-1864 (Rewald, no. 78) and also depicted him with Paul Alexis, another childhood friend from Aix, in two paintings from the end of the decade (Rewald, nos. 150-151; Museo de Arte, São Paulo, and Private collection). Rewald has written, "Zola's friendship was one of the most decisive factors in the painter's school years and early manhood, when the shy and dreaming youth found in the future writer an understanding and kindred soul" (ibid., p. 85).

The paintings of Zola and his future wife are two of the very earliest portraits that the young Cézanne is known to have painted. Rewald has catalogued just five other examples of the genre in the artist's work through 1864: a self-portrait with an intense, red-tinged gaze (Rewald, no. 72; Private Collection) and four portraits of unidentified, bearded male sitters (Rewald, nos. 70-71, 73-74; Detroit Institute of Arts; Museum of Nagaoka, Japan; and Private collections). In 1866, Cézanne began to experiment more intensively with portraiture, using the heavy strokes of a palette knife to paint his parents, his sisters, his boyhood friends Antony Valabrègue and Fortuné Marion, and (on no fewer than ten occasions) his uncle Dominique (Rewald, nos. 94, 97-113, 116-119). Lawrence Gowing has written about the present canvas, "Cézanne's way of painting from the model in 1864 is securely documented by a dated Portrait of a Woman, supposedly the future Madame Zola, in a confidently tonal style with affinities with Manet as well as with Courbet" (op. cit., p. 9). The juxtaposition of the inky black background, the ghostly pale skin, and the blood-red lips produces an effect of unmitigated intensity, comparable to that of the early self-portrait. In place of the latter's direct, unyielding gaze, however, Cézanne has painted Madame Zola with heavy, shadowed lids and a hint of contrapposto, which lend the portrait a heightened pathos.

The portrait of Madame Zola is also the earliest known canvas that Cézanne both signed and dated. According to Rewald, it was the artist's practice to sign a painting only if he intended it for a friend, a specific collector, or an exhibition; as a result, such inscriptions are rare in the artist's oeuvre (op. cit., p. 88). The present painting remained in Zola's collection until his death in 1902 and is one of nine canvases by Cézanne that were included in an auction of the writer's estate at the Hôtel Drouot the following year. All nine paintings date from the 1860s, and each was designated individually in the catalogue as an "oeuvre de première jeunesse" (see ibid., p. 85). It was the largest corpus of works by Cézanne to appear on the market since the sale of Victor Chocquet's collection in 1899, and the paintings fetched high prices. The present canvas was acquired by Ambroise Vollard, who later sold it to Count Arnauld Doria, a descendant of Count Armand Doria. The elder Doria was an important early collector of Impressionist painting, and his inaugural purchase of an Impressionist canvas--Cézanne's Maison du pendu of 1873 (Rewald, no. 202; Musée d'Orsay, Paris)--marked the very first time that Cézanne had sold a painting to someone who was not a close friend.

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