Balthus (1908-2001)
Balthus (1908-2001)
Balthus (1908-2001)
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Balthus (1908-2001)

Nu allongé

Details
Balthus (1908-2001)
Nu allongé
oil on canvas
19 x 31 ½ in. (48.2 x 80 cm.)
Painted in 1925-1926
Provenance
M. and Mme Albert Vulliez, Toulon (gift from the artist, circa 1926).
Private collection, Paris (by 1984).
Acquired by the present owner, June 2016.
Literature
S. Rewald, Balthus, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984, p. 16 (illustrated, p. 15, fig. 9; dated circa 1924).
J. Clair and V. Monnier, Balthus: Catalogue Raisonné of the Complete Works, New York, 1999, p. 103, no. P 18 (illustrated).
J. Clair, ed., Balthus, exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2001, pp. 52 and 172 (illustrated in color, p. 50, fig. 18; illustrated in color again, p. 173, no. 7).

Lot essay

This reclining nude is one of the earliest known paintings by Balthus. Jean Clair has observed that the subject is Simone Maubert who worked as a professional model at the Académie Colarossi in Paris. As Sabine Rewald has suggested, Simone's posture was probably inspired by Sleeping Hermaphrodite, an iconic ancient Greek sculpture at the Louvre. Balthus must have closely studied the ambiguously gendered curves of the Hellenistic marble and translated that three-dimensional form into oil on canvas.

According to Rewald, this painting was among the works that the young Balthus showed to mentors Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Albert Marquet when they first visited his studio. These more established artists were impressed by the erotic ambiguity, as well as the bold modeling, of Balthus's work—qualities that he would continue to refine throughout his career. The older painters encouraged him to continue studying the Old Masters at the Louvre, especially the French Classical painter Nicolas Poussin. Balthus took these art historical lessons to heart; he later reflected, "Real modernity is in the reinvention of the past, in refound originality based on experience and discoveries” (quoted in J. Clair, Balthus, New York, 2001, pp. 77 and 81).

Lot Essay Header Image: Present lot illustrated (detail).

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