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Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1936)
Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1936)

Envol d'un biplan type Wright

Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1936)
Envol d'un biplan type Wright
signed 'Jean Béraud' (lower left)
oil on board
24 5/8 x 18 ½ in. (62.5 x 47 cm.)
Painted circa 1909.
James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841-1918), Paris and New York.
François Coty (1847-1934), Paris.
His estate sale; Villa Namouna, Beaulieu, 11-12 January 1937.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 28 October 1982, lot 56.
Private collection, Miami.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 24 May 1989, lot 75.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
The New York Herald Tribune (European Edition), 4 April 1909, illustrated p. 13.
P. Offenstadt, Jean Béraud 1849-1935, The Belle Epoque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1999, pp. 18, 263, illustrated p. 263, no. 347, detail on p. 18.
Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Jean Béraud, peintre de la vie parisienne, November 1936 - January 1937.
Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Jean Béraud et le Paris de la Belle Époque, 29 September 1999 - 2 January 2000, no. 48.

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Lot Essay

The present work commemorates Wilbur Wright’s flight of March 2nd, 1909 which took place at Pau in south western France. Six years earlier, Wilbur and his brother Orville Wright completed the first successful manned flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wilbur Wright arrived in France in May of 1908. The airplane, which had been shipped to France prior to Wilbur’s arrival, was damaged as a result of careless customs handling and Wilbur spent two stressful months preparing for the first flight. Hunaudières racecourse, southwest of Paris, was selection as the flying site, and Wilbur made his first flight on August 8, 1908. Seeking warmer weather, Wilbur moved his flight demonstration to Pau, a resort town in the south of France in January of 1909. Over the next year, he made more than two hundred flights in Europe, dazzling crowds whenever he took to the air. He became a hero, lavished with praise, honored at ceremonial dinners with political leaders and the aeronautical elite and was the recipient of numerous prizes and medals, including the Legion d’honneur.
In Envol d’un biplane type Wright, Béraud has captured all of the wonder and excitement that must have accompanied these first demonstrations of man’s ability to finally fly. It is clearly a social event; the elegantly attired figures of the man and woman in the foreground, she in her fur wrap and he in his elegant coat and bowler hat, look to the sky in awe, the gathered crowd all raising their hats and cheering this almost unimaginable feat. The sky and landscape are rendered in quickly laid down washes which emphasizes the spontaneity of the composition. It is as if the entire scene is set in motion, an echo of the new mode of transportation speeding towards the ebullient crowd below.
James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the first owner of this painting, was the powerful American newspaper magnate and sportsman who was brought up and educated mainly in France. In 1866, his father named him to run the family owned New York Herald, which was especially known for its innovative reporting and European coverage. The younger Bennett raised the paper’s profile internationally when he provided the financial backing for the 1869 expedition by Henry Morton Stanley into Africa to find David Livingstone in exchange for the Herald having the exclusive account of Stanley’s progress. After he settled in Paris, he launched the Paris Herald Tribune, which became the forerunner of the International Herald Tribune. Mr. Bennett sponsored many international sporting events, including yachting, hot-air balloon and airplane races, as well as several scientific expeditions. He organized the first Polo match in the United Stated at Dickel’s Riding Academy at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City and helped found the Westchester Polo Club. He established the Gordon Bennett Cup for international Yachting and the Gordon Bennett Cup for automobile races. In 1906, he funded the Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett for the fastest speed on a closed circuit for airplanes.
The painting was next owned by Francois Coty, the celebrated Parisian perfumer and art collector. The Coty firm, which he established in 1904, remains active today.

(fig. 1) A Wright biplane in fight.

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