Francis Picabia (1879-1973)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Francis Picabia (1879-1973)


Francis Picabia (1879-1973)
signed 'Francis Picabia' (lower left); titled 'JANIRIA' (upper right)
oil on canvas
36 3/8 x 29 in. (92.5 x 73.6 cm.)
Painted circa 1930
François Regis-Bastide, Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Galerie Île de France, Paris.
Galerie Gianna Sistu, Paris.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 2 December 1986, lot 396.
Galerie 1900-2000, Paris.
Anonymous sale, Hôtel des Ventes, Limoges, 1 November 1987, lot 189.
Private collection, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Private collection, Paris, by whom acquired from the above.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
F. Picabia, Arc en ciel, Paris, 1987, no. 23, p. 46 (illustrated p. 22).
Milan, Studio Marconi, Picabia, Opere 1898-1951, February - March 1986, no. 31, p. 89 (illustrated).
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 Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Comité Picabia.

Eclectic and enigmatic, Janiria belongs to the celebrated series of Transparencies which Francis Picabia executed towards the end of the 1920s. Exploring a new, highly personal style, the series superimposed 'transparent' images onto non-transparent ones, creating an ambiguous merging of meanings and forms. In Janiria, two classical figures enigmatically stretch their arms towards the sky, while a third in the background seems to be playing a non-existent instrument. Each figure inhabits the same Arcadian space and yet they all seem to have been estranged from their original contexts.
Indeed, the pose of the figure standing on the left is reminiscent of Mercury, in Botticelli's Primavera, while the two superimposed outlined heads are citations from his Madonna della Melagrana (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence).
The superimposed outlines of two female profiles and a pair of hands enhance this impression, deliberately muddying any sense of pictorial cohesion, complicating any simple notion of meaning.

Picabia himself connected the genesis of the Transparencies with a revelatory moment in a café in Marseille, where on the glass of a window, the reflection of the interior appeared superimposed upon the outside view (Francis Picabia dans les collections du Centre Pompidou Musée d'art moderne, exh. cat., Paris, 2003, p. 71). The origin of this new style, however, also relates to Picabia's interest in cinema. In 1924, Picabia had in fact co-written with René Char the scenario of Entr'acte, an experimental film in which images are juxtaposed and superimposed without serving the unfolding of a logical narrative. Applying this cinematic strategy to his paintings, Picabia found a way of expanding the temporal and spatial settings of his images, creating an effect of simultaneity and speed. Writing twenty years after the Transparencies were created, Marcel Duchamp explained that works such as Janiria were pioneering pictures in which Picabia succeeded in suggesting the third dimension without recurring to mathematical perspective, pushing figuration on to new terrains (M. Duchamp, 'Francis Picabia: Painter, Writer', pp. 4-5, in Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920, New Haven, 1950, p. 5).

Picabia's use of Antique and Classical sources in the Transparencies has led some scholars to relate works such as Janiria to the broader European context of the retour à l'ordre. Instead of presenting obliging homages to the past, however, Picabia's Transparencies seem to work more as provocative pastiches: 'Our back is enough to contemplate the respectful past', Picabia once said (F. Picabia in 1930, quoted in Francis Picabia: Singulier idéal, exh. cat., Paris, 2003, p. 314). Appearing as a sort of visual enigma, Janiria baffles the viewer's effort to decipher its meaning. Despite their misleadingly mythological-sounding names, moreover, the titles of the Transparencies were often invented by Picabia or extracted randomly from the small Atlas de poche des papillons de France, Suisse et Belgique which was found in his studio: under a slightly different spelling, 'Janira' is in fact the name of a brown species of butterfly.

When Picabia painted Janiria around 1928-1930, he was living on the Côte d'Azur, experiencing a period of great creativity. In 1928 an exhibition of his Transparencies at the Théophile Briant Gallery in Paris gained him a prestigious commission when the legendary dealer Léonce Rosenberg asked the artist to conceive a decorative cycle of eight panels for his wife's apartment. At the same time, Picabia enjoyed a mondain lifestyle, speeding on cars and boats and designing a series of themed gala nights at Cannes's nightclub Le Château de Madrid. Viewed in this context, works such as Janiria have also been interpreted as witty and disguised critiques of the lifestyle on the Côte d'Azur, contrasting the frivolous, modern reality of the holiday resorts of the Mediterranean with its elegant Classical past, and also allowing Picabia to add another layer of playful provocation.

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