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Property from the Estate of Sophie F. Danforth

Square de la Trinité

Square de la Trinité
signed 'Renoir.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21 3/8 x 25 3/4 in. (54.3 x 65.4 cm.)
Painted in Paris in 1878-1879
Nicolas-Auguste Hazard, Orrouy; Estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1-3 December 1919, lot 207.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Paul Rosenberg, Paris (acquired from the above, 10 February 1920).
Charles S. Carstairs, New York.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (on consignment from the estate of the above, 1928).
Carroll Carstairs, New York (acquired from the above, by 1929).
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (on consignment from the above, November 1933).
Helen and Murray Snell Danforth, Providence, Rhode Island (acquired from the above, December 1933, then by descent to the late owner).
C. Carstairs, "Renoir" in Apollo, vol. 10, no. 55, July 1929, p. 35 (illustrated).
R.R. Tatlock, "An Exhibition of French Landscapes in New York" in Burlington Magazine, vol. 59, October 1931, p. 194 (illustrated, pl. II).
C. Carstairs, Postscript to Criticism, London, 1934, p. 24 (illustrated in color).
B.E. White, Renoir: His Life, Art and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 202 (illustrated in color; dated circa 1892).
E. Fezzi and J. Henry, Tout l'œuvre peint de Renoir: Période impressionniste, 1869-1883, Paris, 1985, p. 115, no. 622 (dated circa 1892).
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Renoir: Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, 1882-1894, Paris, 2009, vol. II, p. 134, no. 910 (illustrated, p. 135; dated circa 1892).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., A Century of French Painting, November-December 1928, no. 19 (illustrated; dated circa 1880).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., The Landscape in French Painting: XIX-XX Centuries, October-November 1931, no. 19.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Renoir: A Special Exhibition of His Paintings, May-September 1937, no. 52 (illustrated; dated 1892).
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Paintings, Drawings, Prints from Private Collections in New England, June-September 1939, p. 71, no. 104 (illustrated, pl. LI; dated circa 1880).
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., Four Masters of Impressionism, October-November 1968, no. 54 (illustrated in color; dated 1892).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings by Renoir, February-April 1973, no. 62 (illustrated; dated 1892).
London, The National Gallery; Ottawa, The National Gallery of Canada and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Renoir Landscapes: 1865-1883, February 2007-January 2008, pp. 160-161, no. 29 (illustrated in color, p. 161; dated 1875).
Providence, Rhode Island School of Design Museum (on extended loan, 1995-2023).
Further details
This work will be included in the forthcoming Pierre-Auguste Renoir digital catalogue raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Square de la Trinité depicts a Parisian park on a gloriously sunny morning. Populated by elegant figures, this verdant park is lush with flowers and plants that overflow their beds and a cluster of tall, leafy trees that provide shady respite from the brilliant light of the day. Beyond the edge of the park, a row of elegant modern apartments—distinguished by their creamy limestone facades, slate mansard roofs and wrought iron balconies—are just visible. Renoir rendered all of this with a rich, jewel-toned color palette of emerald, sapphire and ruby, and a scintillating surface texture with evocative brushwork, alternately fluid and flickering. This picturesque scene of urban leisure, which has featured in a number of major exhibitions throughout the twentieth century, has remained with the same esteemed family of collectors for ninety years.
Aside from its picturesque setting, the primary subject of this painting is the flirtation of the fashionable couple standing in the foreground: a slender blonde Parisienne wearing a pale pink bustled dress and a navy-blue bonnet is accompanied by a dashing gentleman with a top hat and a cigar in hand. Though we can see little of their faces, their animated gestures suggest lively conversation as they watch other couples and families stroll along the winding garden path. Renoir’s depiction of this courtship ritual may have been inspired by the eighteenth-century painter Jean-Antoine Watteau, who famously depicted lovers cavorting in idyllic landscapes. As National Gallery of London curator Christopher Riopelle observed of Renoir’s Square de la Trinité, “A Watteau-like fête galante has been transposed to the heart of modern Paris” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2007, p. 161). Here, Renoir finds romance not on the island of Cythera, the mythical birthplace of Venus, but rather in a small urban park in the middle of the French capital’s ninth arrondissement.
The park depicted in Square de la Trinité is a semi-circular green in front of the Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité, a Catholic church built in 1867 near the Gare St-Lazare. Like much of Paris, this neighborhood had been thoroughly transformed during the Second Empire. Napoleon III’s Prefect of the Seine, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, initiated a series of urban planning projects to modernize the city: he supervised the construction of new public parks, grand boulevards, apartment buildings and ornate architectural monuments—including the Opéra at the Palais Garnier and the Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité—all to demonstrate the glory of the French Empire.
The transformed metropolis inspired several Impressionists to paint the cityscape. In his own representations of Paris, Renoir preferred large-scale figurative scenes, rather than bustling streets and public squares. Notable exceptions to this rule include a small group of works devoted to the Square de la Trinité. In the four other known canvases which depict the location, however, Renoir adopted a totally different vantage point of the Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité, showing much more of its façade. In the present painting, the architectural elements of the Neo-Renaissance style church— the bell tower, curved balustrade, and water fountains—are only just visible on the left edge of the canvas; the titular church is overwhelmed by the natural elements of the park. Indeed, Renoir’s vision of the city is a pastoralized fantasy, eliminating the urban traffic and noise that appear in many contemporaneous Impressionist paintings.
The first owner of Square de la Trinité was Nicolas-Auguste Hazard, a French collector of Impressionism and the Barbizon School. In 1934, Helen and Murray Snell Danforth of Providence, Rhode Island acquired the painting via M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, and it has remained in their family ever since. Dr. Murray Danforth was an orthopedic surgeon and Helen Danforth was the granddaughter of Helen Metcalf, founder of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1877; the younger Helen served as the second President of the school from 1931 to 1947, and subsequently as the Chair of its Board of Trustees from 1947 to 1965.
Square de la Trinité has been featured in monographic exhibitions staged at major museums across the United States, including installations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. This painting was included in a 2007 exhibition devoted to Renoir’s Impressionist landscapes, which traveled from the National Gallery in London to the National Gallery of Canada and concluded at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. More recently, the work has been on view through a long-term loan to the Rhode Island School of Design, honoring the familial legacy of the present owner.

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