Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE HUBERTUS WALD CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)

Les demoiselles de Tongres

Details
Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
Les demoiselles de Tongres
signed, dated and titled 'P.DELVAUX LES DEMOISELLES DE TONGRES 30.10.61.' (lower right)
watercolour, gouache and pen and India ink on paper
28¾ x 21½ in. (73 x 54.5 cm.)
Executed on 30 October 1961
Provenance
Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione.
Hubertus Wald, Hamburg, by whom acquired from the above in May 1969.
Exhibited
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Sammlung Wald, September - November 2003.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

This work is related to the oil Les demoiselles de Tongres, 1962 (Butor, Clair & Houbart-Wilkin 266; Private collection).

Paul Delvaux's pictures plunge the viewer into a world of timeless mystery. In Les demoiselles de Tongres, executed in 1961, we are shown a pair of women embracing each other, each wearing beret-like hats and draped robes that are falling away to expose their flesh. On the left-hand figure, a necklace is also visible. This image has been created with an incredible attention to detail, evident in the meticulous hatching that articulates so much of the night sky and which thrusts the luminous orb of the moon into such bold relief; likewise, the women's hair and the leaves of the tree have all been rendered with incredible, painstaking care.

This is a highly-finished work on paper; the composition is dominated by the two women who, with only a few minor changes, would reappear in an oil painting of the same name, created the following year. The differences between that larger oil and this intriguing work on paper are instructive: in the later picture, the women are a focal episode in a vaster landscape through which other figures wander; here, by contrast, the vertical format demands that the viewer pays attention to the women themselves and their mysterious relationship. The lesbian theme, exploring les deux amies, had recurred several times in Delvaux's works, which appear to echo the legacy of the celebrated and enigmatic picture of Gabrielle d'Estrées and the Duchess of Villars from the School of Fontainebleau. However, this theme appears to have culminated in a loose narrative arc throughout several of Delvaux's paintings from 1962, threading its way through Douce nuit, Le sabbat and Le veilleur III. Les demoiselles de Tongres, then, provides an intriguing early springboard for this group of acclaimed works.

As is the case in many of Delvaux's most signature images, the women shown in Les demoiselles de Tongres appear to be immersed in an almost ritualised world. The architecture in the background is classical enough that it might be modern Belgium or ancient Greece, introducing a timelessness that recalls the pictures of Giorgio de Chirico which had been such an important touchstone to Delvaux. However, where many of the women in Delvaux's pictures can appear somnambulant, here, there the artist has captured a sense of emotion and passion. The potent atmosphere, which combines sensuality with a sense of dislocatedness, would be echoed in Alain Robbe-Grillet's film L'année dernière à Marienbad, which was released during 1961 and for which the director had even approached Delvaux with a view to asking him to design the sets.

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