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The Beribboned Washstand

The Beribboned Washstand
signed 'Sickert' (upper right)
oil on canvas
22 x 18 ½ in. (56 x 47 cm.)
Painted in 1903-1904.
with Bernheim Jeune, Paris, 14 June 1907, lot 60, as 'Casa Veneziana'.
Anonymous sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 21 June 1909, lot 60.
Mark Oliver, by 1935.
R.C. Pritchard, by 1951.
with Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, 1956.
Mrs B. Farquhar, by 1960.
Her sale; Sotheby's, London, 13 March 1974, lot 25.
with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London.
Sir Tristan Antico, Australia, by 1980.
His sale; Sotheby's, London, 22 June 1994, lot 50, where purchased by the present owner.
L. Browse (ed.), Sickert, London, 1943, p. 44, no. 22, illustrated.
L. Browse, Sickert, London, 1960, pp. 70-71, no. 39, illustrated.
J. Rothenstein, Sickert, London, 1961, n.p., illustrated.
W. Baron, Sickert, London, 1973, p. 333, no. 172, pl. 120.
W. Baron and R. Shone (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Sickert: Paintings, London, Royal Academy, 1992, pp. 140-141, no. 38, illustrated.
W. Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, London, 2006, p. 286, no. 200, illustrated.
probably Paris, Bernheim Jeune, 1909, no. 60, as 'Casa Veneziana'.
London, Leicester Galleries, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Richard Sickert, June 1929, no. 68.
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, The 61st Autumn Exhibition: Collective Exhibit of the Work of Richard Sickert, October 1935 - January 1936, no. 85.
London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Sickert: Forty of His Finest Paintings, June - August 1951, no. 33.
Edinburgh, Scottish Arts Council, Royal Scottish Academy, An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Walter Sickert, January 1953, no. 45.
London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Tate Gallery, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, May - June 1960, no. 81: this exhibition travelled to Southampton, Art Gallery, July; and Bradford, City Art Gallery, July - August.
Sydney, David Jones' Art Gallery, Walter Richard Sickert: Paintings and Drawings from Public and Private Collections in Australia, August 1980, no. 10.
London, Royal Academy, Sickert: Paintings, November 1992 - February 1993, no. 38: this exhibition travelled to Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, February - May 1993.

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Alice Murray
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Lot Essay

According to Sickert, bad weather was responsible for changing the course of his career. Having painted both the grand sites and the little-known backwaters on his visits to Venice in 1895, 1896, 1900 and 1901, on his arrival in 1903 he found it too cold and wet to work outdoors. He decided to stay in his rooms at 340 Calle dei Frate, and paint figures within its sparsely furnished but distinctive interiors.

A period of sustained concentration over the winter of 1903-1904 in Venice, encompassed the creation of Sickert’s first paintings of realistic nudes (rather than the goddesses and nymphs favoured by the English art establishment), and his earliest two-figure subjects (precursors of the modern conversation pieces which a few years later were to bring him notoriety in London). This change of course was not completely unheralded. He had made drawings of the nude in 1902 at his home in Neuville Dieppe.

Sickert was said to have found the models who feature in the fifty or so surviving oil paintings made during this visit to Venice, among the street walkers who patronised his local trattoria. In eight paintings he brought two of his models together, seated on the couch or on a bed, often deep in conversation. In three of these eight one of the figures, lying across a bed and seen in foreshortening, is nude or not fully dressed. However, whilst Sickert made many drawings of the nude in Venice, the only single figure painting of the nude is The Beribboned Washstand.

This is perhaps the most tender painting of a nude ever created by Sickert. The composition is a classical pyramid, with the overall shape of the seated nude echoing the design of the drapery over the washstand. The figure is relaxed, lost in her own thoughts. Unlike many of Sickert’s Venetian clothed or semi-dressed models, she does not address the spectator with a brazen glance. She remains aloof. Despite the chamber pot in the background, the setting is not especially sordid. Sickert’s handling of the paint when modelling the nude, in full, richly coloured hatched strokes, suggests the influence of Veronese. This is a sensuous, but not a sensual, painting.

The best-known of Sickert’s Venetian models were La Giuseppina - careworn and thin - and the protean Carolina del’Acqua. In a letter to the first owner of La Nera (Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea) Sickert identified his model as La Carolina, who is usually thought to have modelled for the present painting. She was certainly the model for a series of paintings and drawings of a clothed figure, seated or standing, against the same background of washstand and chest of drawers. The original title, Casa Veneziana, given when the painting was bought for stock by Bernheim Jeune, Paris in 1907, does not help identify the model. The current title is a shortened version of The Beribboned Washingstand used by the Leicester Galleries in their big selling exhibition in 1929.

We are very grateful to Dr Wendy Baron for preparing this catalogue entry.

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