L'étang sacré
signed 'R. Ernst.' (lower left)
oil on panel
36 1/4 x 28 3/8 in. (92.1 x 72 cm.)
Painted circa 1900
The artist.
Société française des amis des arts, Paris, acquired directly from the above at the Salon of 1900.
Baron Henri-Alexandre Gérard (1818-1903), Paris, 14 June 1900, acquired directly from the above.
Anonymous sale; Briest, Paris, 26 June 1995, lot 94.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 5 June 1996, lot 148.
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above.
P. Heusy, 'Le Salon de 1900: promenade a travers l'exposition,' Le Radical, Paris, 7 April 1900, p. 2.
H. Dac, 'Quinzaines dramatiques et artistiques,' L'Univers, Paris, 23 April 1900, n.p.
'Au Salon: nos acquisitions,' Bulletin de la Société française des amis des arts: paraissant tous les mois, Paris, 25 May 1900, p. 4.
'Bulletin des espositions, des concurs et des musées,' Journal des artistes, Paris, 17 June 1900, p. 3159.
J.-N. Gung'l, 'Nos Acquisitions à la salle Chayne,' Bulletin de la Société française des amis des arts: paraissant tous les mois, Paris, 1 July 1900, p. 3, 6.
Neurdein frères, Catalogue des collections de sujets édités dans le format carte postale, Paris, 1900, p. 310, no. 105.
'L'Album de la Société française des amis des arts,' Bulletin de la Société française des amis des arts: paraissant tous les mois, Paris, 25 March 1901, p. 5, illustrated.
L. Thornton, The Orientalists: Painter-Travellers 1828-1908, Paris, 1983, p. 224.
L. Thornton, Les Orientalistes: Peintres voyageurs, Paris, 1993, p. 81.
Paris, Salon, 1900, no. 485, illustrated.
Paris, Salle Chayne, Société française des amis des arts, no. 11.
Nancy, no. 107.
San Francisco, Asian Art Museum, A Curious Affair, the Fascination Between East and West, 17 June-3 September 2006, unnumbered, as The Sacred Pool.

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Lot Essay

Rudolf Ernst, born in Vienna in 1854, was the son of the architectural painter Leopold Ernst. After attending the Vienna Academy in 1869 and exhibiting in Munich he traveled to Italy in 1874. As early as 1876 Ernst decided to settle in Paris where he would exhibit at the Salon des Artistes Français for the following six decades. Like his close friend Ludwig Deutsch, who also took French nationality, Ernst belongs to the second generation of Orientalist painters. Unlike the first generation of Orientalist painters, such as Jules Vernet and Eugène Delacroix, Romantics who were inspired by contemporary political events, the second generation displayed a stronger interest in the depiction of scenes of daily life of the East, as it was imagined then. A gifted student of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Ernst adopted the great master's detailed renderings and use of bright colors. He developed a mastery of plasticity and form, best expressed through his depictions of ‘exotic’ artifacts, which he used primarily as a vehicle through which to express his technical mastery.
While Ernst traveled to Spain, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt to seek out landscapes, architecture and experiences which would continue to inspire his Orientalist compositions throughout his career, he is not known to have ever traveled to India, the setting for the present painting. However, Ernst used his travels to amass a vast array of objects, photographs and illustrated books for his personal collection, which he would refer to in his studio while painting. Given the artist’s known interest in studying photographs as points of reference, this may offer a possible reason for the small number of Indian subjects depicted in his oeuvre, thought to be datable to the years around 1900. The late 19th century was a golden age of photography in India, both for European photographers who traveled to the subcontinent, but also for Indian photographers capturing their homeland like the famed Lala Deen Dayal (1844-1905) as well. It’s possible that Ernst may have encountered photographs which inspired him to take up India as a subject. While no specific source photograph has been identified for this beautiful depiction of a holy man standing before a pond in a temple, Ernst was known to be less concerned with ethnographic accuracy than creating a compelling composition, and it is possible that he combined information gleaned from multiple different sources in imagining the present painting.

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