James Ensor (1860-1949)
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James Ensor (1860-1949)

Les joueurs

James Ensor (1860-1949)
Les joueurs
signed and dated 'J.ENSOR 1902' (lower right)
oil on canvas
32 5/8 x 40 1/8 in. (83 x 102 cm.)
Painted in 1902
Galerie Giroux, Brussels, by 1945.
Anonymous sale, Campo & Campo, Antwerp, 10 October 1972, lot 94.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owners.
E. Verhaeren, Ensor, Brussels, 1908, p. 122.
G. Le Roy, James Ensor, Brussels, 1922, p. 188.
X. Tricot, James Ensor, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, vol. II, 1902-1941, Antwerp, 1992, no. 390, p. 402 (illustrated).
X. Tricot, James Ensor, Brussels, 2009, no. 405, p. 331 (illustrated).
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, James Ensor, January - February 1929, no. 243.
Ostend, Kursaal, Oeuvres de James Ensor, August 1931, no. 11.
Ostend, Galerie Studio, Exposition de dessins, gravures et miniatures, August 1932, no. 1.
Ostend, Galerie Studio, Exposition d'oeuvres du Baron James Ensor, August 1933, no. 12.
Ostend, Galerie Studio, Ensor, August 1945, no. 7.
Ostend, Galerie Studio, 75e Salon: Baron James Ensor et H.V. Wolvens, August 1946, no. 3 (dated '1901').
Ostend, Galerie Studio, 78e Salon: Baron James Ensor, May - June 1947, no. 4 (dated '1901').
Ostend, Galerie Studio, 79e Salon: Baron James Ensor et H.V. Wolvens, August - September 1947, no. 1 (dated '1901').
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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

One of an important and rare group of bitingly satirical oil paintings that James Ensor painted in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth, Les joueurs (The Gamblers) is a comparatively large example dating from 1902. Depicting an extraordinary varied group of caricatured middle-aged men engrossed in betting on a card game, the painting portrays the insidious art of gambling and its effects on those who pursue it through a grotesque and mask-like parade of grimacing faces.
Ensor, who spent his summers in Ostend was well aquainted with both the practice and the habits of gambling as well as with the characteristics of the demi-monde that surrounded Ostend's casinos. Belgium's ambivalent and comparatively relaxed attitude towards gambling in the late nineteenth century was a point of topical discussion during the period, especially when, in 1892, a prominent Ostend politician named Montagnie became destitute as the result of a gambling scandal. Les joueurs is based on a drawing that Ensor made soon after this scandal in 1893.
He subsequently made a popular print of the same subject in 1895. It is therefore plausible, as Ensor scholar Patrick Florizoone has suggested, that the subject of this work with its depiction of a gambler losing under the stern eyes of a figure of authority may well relate to this scandal as well as to the corrosive effects of the practice as a whole.

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