Jean François Raffaëlli (French, 1850-1924)
Property from a Distinguished New York Collector
Jean François Raffaëlli (French, 1850-1924)

Paris, La place de Saint Michel avec le quai des Grands Augustins et le pont Saint Michel au premier plan et le pont Neuf et le Louvre a l’arrière plan

Jean François Raffaëlli (French, 1850-1924)
Paris, La place de Saint Michel avec le quai des Grands Augustins et le pont Saint Michel au premier plan et le pont Neuf et le Louvre a l’arrière plan
signed 'J. F. RAFFAELLI' (lower right)
charcoal on buff paper on canvas
37 ¼ x 50 1/8 in. (94.6 x 127.3 cm.)
Executed circa 1900.
Anonymous sale; Picard, Paris, 28 June 1996, lot 105, as Paris: Animation sur les quais.
with Beadleston Gallery, New York, by 1998.
New York, Beadleston Gallery, London, Paris, New York - Impressionist and 20th Century Views of the City, 6-30 May 1998, no. 2.
Sale room notice
Please note that Brame & Lorenceau has confirmed the authenticity of this work, which will also be included in their digital Catalogue critique on the artist now in preparation.

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Lot Essay

A true renaissance man, Jean-François Raffaëlli was an accomplished actor, musician, printmaker, draftsman, sculptor, and author, as well as a painter. After a brief enrollment in the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1871 proved to be a poor fit, Raffaëlli set out on a self-directed Grand Tour through Europe and North Africa, but unlike other artists who fell under the sway of foreign lands, it was Paris, the city of his birth, that could never be replaced as the artist’s muse. In addition to depicting its fashionable districts and people, as in the present work, Raffaëlli often explored the city’s banlieue as well, painting the ragpickers and other marginal figures of society displaced by Haussmannisation. ‘My subject is all Paris,’ the artist said, ‘I aim to paint the beauty of Paris as well as its wretchedness’ (‘A Talk by Mr. Raffäelli,’ The Art Amateur, April 1895, p. 135). Though Raffaëlli did not consider himself a part of any one movement and rejected attempts to classify artists, he was above all a realist whose central belief was that that an artist’s duty was to render the essence of the contemporary society in which he lived.

In the present drawing, Raffaëlli turns his eye toward the wide, bustling streets of Paris so transformed by Baron Haussmann’s new vision for the city. Rather than give the view from street-level, the drawing instead takes an unusually high viewpoint, looking down over the busy intersection and providing the viewer a more expansive view of the city and its denizens. In the foreground the pont Saint Michel and the quai des Grands Augustins are visible, and in the distance the pont Neuf and the towering pavilions of the Louvre can be seen. Each figure passing by is individualized without being contrived, giving the viewer the sense that they are truly standing on a balcony looking down on the street below. From the elegant figures browsing the wares of the bouquinistes on the quai, to the constable chatting with the older woman waiting to cross the street, to the two workmen on ladders making repairs to the café awning, people from all walks of life in Paris find representation in Raffaëlli’s wonderful large-scale drawing. All of these figures provide a charming snapshot of everyday life in Belle Époque Paris. There is even a single figure depicted riding toward the viewer on a bicycle, that modern invention. It is impossible to return to Raffaëlli’s captivating drawing without having some new detail of the figures on the street leap to the viewer’s attention, a testament to the enduring appeal of the artist’s theory of caractérisme which called for careful individualized observation of people within their milieu.

We are grateful to Galerie Brame & Lorenceau and the Comité Raffaëlli for confirming the authenticity of this work. The work will be included in their digital Raffaëlli Catalogue critique, now in preparation.

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