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Sir William Orpen, R.A. (1878-1931)
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Sir William Orpen, R.A. (1878-1931)

The First Costume (La Premiere Mode)

Sir William Orpen, R.A. (1878-1931)
The First Costume (La Premiere Mode)
signed 'ORPEN' (lower right), inscribed '"The First Fashion"' (lower left), inscribed again 'COSTUME' (lower centre), and inscribed again ' La Premiere Mode' (lower right)
watercolour, charcoal and chalk
20½ x 15¼ in. (52.1 x 38.7 cm.)
Executed in 1926-28.
Rupert Mason.
His sale; Christie's, London, 20 July 1931, lot 16.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 27 November 1931, lot 32.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 17 February 1933, lot 31.
Virginia Burnham Nelson, Paris and Minneapolis, and by descent to Burnham Nelson, California, and by descent to Mark Woodbridge, North Carolina.
R. Mason, The Robes of Thespis, London, 1928, illustrated on the frontispiece.
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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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André Zlattinger
André Zlattinger

Lot Essay

The present work was used as an illustration, the frontispiece, for a book on Costume Designs by Modern Artists. The book, Robes of Thespis, was published in 1928. In the preface, Rupert Mason, who commissioned the book, states that with some eminent artists he 'placed commissions to produce designs specially for this book, and from others I purchased drawings and designs hitherto unpublished'. Given the inscriptions under the drawing this work was more likely a commission and therefore most likely dates to 1926, i.e. the year Orpen r ecords its sale in his Studio Account Book. With the face hidden it is virtually impossible to identify the model, but he undertook few nudes after the Great War, mainly his then French mistress Yvonne Aubicq in the early 1920s, an unidentified nude in the picture entitled Sunlight (mid-1920s) (National Gallery of Ireland), and in his last years an unidentified nude, who can be seen in one of his last genre pictures Eve in the Garden of Eden (1931) (Royal Academy, London).

We are very grateful to Christopher Pearson of the Orpen Research Project for preparing this catalogue entry.

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