Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903)
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Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903)

Persian Horse Dealer, Bombay

Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903)
Persian Horse Dealer, Bombay
signed 'E.L. Weeks' and with the artist's Moghul device (lower left)
oil on canvas
31 5/8 x 39½ in. (80.4 x 100.4 cm.)
Painted in the 1880s.
with Richard Green, London.
Acquired from the above by a Swiss private collector.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 17 June 1999, lot 64.
(Probably) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 63rd Annual Exhibition, 1893.
(Probably) Chicago, World's Columbian Exposition, 1893.
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

This painting wonderfully illustrates Weeks' abilities as an animal painter. Led by a groom, the chestnut mare is depicted with nostrils flared, flanks and shoulders gleaming in the mid-day sun, its gait faithfully rendered in a tour-de-force of naturalistic painting, which simulataneously captures movement, light and colour. In the background another horse is being washed in preparation for sale.

Weeks used a variety of animals to bring his paintings to life, including horses, camels, elephants and even flocks of pigeons. The artist had a natural empathy for the animal world: he had included them in some of his earliest paintings of Florida, and had travelled vast distances across Asia on horseback. For an artist who usually stressed a scene rather than an individual motif, the focus on the horse here is therefore particularly revealing.

This focus is part of a compositional scheme which strives in the present work above all for immediacy. While this is a characteristic typically associated with Weeks' brand of realism, here the paucity of figures leads the eye to certain key motifs and details in different pictorial planes - notably the figures on the left, the horse, the grooms and the grand house in the background. The picture's arresting qualities are further heightened by the transparency of light caused by the mid-day setting (as suggested also by the short shadows); by the almost photographic nature of the composition in the cropping of the subject matter; and by the extraordinarily observed details of human expression and surface detail.

The group of three figures on the left of the composition is particularly striking. The merchant is shown looking nervously over the shoulders of his two aristocratic clients, intensely anticipating his horse's movements and his customers' potential reaction to them. The noblemen, richly dressed, adopt an aristocratic, detached pose, at odds with the keen interest betrayed by their expression. Weeks has thus brilliantly rendered a subtle pychological drama, which suggests the power play and negotiations which will soon follow from the tableau he has created.

This painting will be indluded in the forthcoming Weeks catalogue raisonné being prepared by Dr. Ellen Morris.

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