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Femme au corsage rouge

Femme au corsage rouge
signed 'Renoir.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
15 7⁄8 x 12 3⁄8 in. (40.3 x 31.5 cm.)
Painted in 1893
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, October 1901).
Alexandre Berthier, Prince de Wagram, Paris (acquired from the above, August 1905, until November 1914).
Galerie Paul Pétridès, Paris.
Lucien Lefevre-Poinet, Paris.
Acquavella Galleries Inc., New York.
Mamdouha and Elmer Holmes Bobst, New York (acquired from the above, 1965); Estate sale, Sotheby's, New York, 10 May 2016, lot 142.
Acquired at the above sale by Arnold and Anne Ulnick Gumowitz.
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.

This work will be included in the second supplement to the Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles de Renoir being prepared by Guy-Patrice and Floriane Dauberville.

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Lot Essay

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Femme au corsage rouge of 1893 is a three-quarter length portrait of a plump, rosy brunette outfitted entirely in brilliant shades of red. This fashionable parisienne wears a straw hat with crimson flowers forming a ring around the brim and a scarlet-red silk dress with a ruffled lapel. The model’s sapphire-blue eyes are echoed in the rich, blue-green background. This painting exemplifies Renoir’s powerful skill as a colorist, as well as his taste for Rubenesque women—and also his enduring curiosity and interest in women’s fashion.
Hats are undoubtedly the most frequent fashionable accessory in Renoir’s oeuvre. For him, these were the ultimate symbol of modern femininity. Renoir painted an astonishing number and variety of chapeaux, ranging from silk bonnets and lacy caps to wide-brimmed velvet hats, trimmed with ribbons, tassels, feathers and flowers real and faux. The simple straw hat, typically worn during the day to shield one’s face from the sun, were increasingly popular in the 1890s. Renoir even painted women adorning their own straw hats, as in Jeunes filles arrangeant un chapeau (Foundation E.G. Bührle, Zurich) of 1893, executed the same year as the present work.
Renoir’s fascination with hats may be traced in part to his relationship with Aline Charigot, who worked as a milliner in Montmartre when the artist first met her in 1880. Aline’s own dress- and hatmaking practice found a creative parallel in Renoir’s painting. In turn, Renoir began to incorporate hats regularly into his portraits and genre paintings of women. For the next several decades, the artist insisted that his subjects wear hats, which offered a pretense for introducing color and texture into his compositions. He continued to do so against the apparent advice of his own dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, who warned him against becoming repetitive. Yet the modern painter Suzanne Valadon, who also posed for Renoir, recalled that “he never ceased buying lots of hats”—accumulating a collection of props for his models to wear in his own studio (quoted in G. Coquiot, Renoir, Paris, 1925, p. 97). Renoir also invented his own hats in his work; he once approached the famed milliner Madame Ether Meyer, who maintained an atelier on the rue Royale in Paris, to design a hat based on one of his own pastel compositions.
Renoir was not the only Impressionist to paint hats with an attention bordering on obsession. They also appear with some regularity in the work of his colleague, Edgar Degas. He produced his own series of paintings, pastels and drawings set in the milliner’s shop, depicting both shop girls and customers trying on different hats. More broadly speaking, hats were considered to be desirable commodities in late nineteenth-century France, appropriate to be worn in nearly every social context. As the Saint Louis Art Museum curator Simon Kelly noted, “Within female fashion, the hat was a crucial part of a woman’s overall dress and, more specifically, her silhouette….Commentators regularly noted the centrality [of hats] within Parisian life where they were on view on the streets of the capital and in modern spaces from the cafe to the theater to the racetrack to the brothel” (“Plume Mania: Degas, Feathers and the Global Millinery Trade,” in A Companion to Impressionism, Dombrowski, Hoboken, 2021, p. 418).
Despite his apparent distaste for Renoir’s hats, Durand-Ruel acquired this painting directly from the artist in 1901. He in turn sold the work to Alexandre Berthier, the Prince de Wagram, a descendent of Napoleon I’s chief of staff. Berthier was married to Bertha Clara von Rothschild, one of the heirs to the Jewish-German banking family fortune.

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