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Alfred Stevens (Belgian, 1823-1906)
Alfred Stevens (Belgian, 1823-1906)


Alfred Stevens (Belgian, 1823-1906)
signed and dated 'Alfred Stevens. 76' (lower right)
oil on panel
30¼ x 21½ in. (76.8 x 54.6 cm.)
Everard, London, 1876.
Eugène Lyon sale; Georges Petit, Brussels, 7 May 1903, no. 24.
Georges Parmentier, Brussels, 1907.
Jean Stern, 1930.
with Richard Green, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
F. Boucher, Alfred Stevens, Paris, 1930, pl. 52.
G. Van Zype, Les frères Stevens, Brussels, 1936, no. 205.
Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, L'Oeuvre d'Alfred Stevens, 6-27 February 1900, no. 111.
Brussels-Antwerp, Société Royale des Beaux-Arts, L'Oeuvre d'Alfred Stevens, April-June 1907, no. 69.

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Lot Essay

Alfred Stevens' reputation rests on his intimate portraits of elegant women rendered with a soft painterly touch and sensitive handling of color of which the present work is a quintessential example. Like his Impressionist contemporaries, Stevens eschewed history and mythology for modernity. He painted the private lives of the women of his day outfitted in the latest fashion trends of the moment. In Mélancolie, a young woman dressed in a ruffled pink and beige ensemble looks longing out an open window. She stands amidst a well-appointed room that exemplifies the French taste for Japonisme then in vogue. Following Japan's opening to trade in the mid-19th century, European access to the Asian country's wares increased. Major exhibitions held at the Musée Oriental, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Expositions Universelles in the latter half of the 19th century also introduced the French public to Japanese art and aesthetics. As curiosity shops and art auctions in Paris began filling their walls with Japanese objets d'art, these works eventually found their way into the homes of the city's elite. Stevens himself became an avid collector of Japanese art and antiques that he often incorporated into his paintings. In Mélancolie, the decorative screen in the lower left corner, the fabric draped over the bench and the golden floral wallpaper create an all-encompassing environment of Japonisme. While Mélancolie is a portrait of a specific individual from a particular period, the work remains universal and timeless in its expression of isolation, longing and loneliness.

While Stevens excelled at painting these quiet interiors, his personal and professional lives were a matter of public exhibition. Stevens counted among his friends and patrons King Leopold II, Princess Mathilde, Napoleon Bonaparte's descendants and the artists Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Throughout his life, Stevens hosted frequent soirees at his home for his illustrious friends and exhibited regularly at the Paris salons, all of which helped make him one of the most successful artists of his day.

We are grateful to the Comité Alfred Stevens for confirming the authenticity of this painting which will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist published by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau.

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