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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED JAPANESE COLLECTION

Le Château de Chillon, Lake Geneva

Le Château de Chillon, Lake Geneva
signed and dated '76/ G.Courbet.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
32 x 38 3/8 in. (81.3 x 100 cm.)
Collection Kuntz.
Galerie Caspari, Munich, by 1914.
Possibly Victor Stoeffler, Gérardmer and Montceau-les-Mines.
with Jacques Dubourg, Paris, by 1958.
with Jacques Seligmann & Co., New York, purchased from the above, by 1968.
Private Collection, New York, by 1978.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 28 May 1981, lot 59.
Rindoko Museum, Tochigi, Japan.
Private Collection, Japan, 2020.
J. Meier-Graefe, Courbet, Munich, 1924, p 117, no. 118, with the incorrect date of 1875.
R. Fernier, La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet, catalogue raisonné, Paris and Lausanne, 1978, vol. II, pp. 232-233, no. 1043, illustrated.
Munich, Gallery Caspari, Summer 1914, unnumbered.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Alastair Plumb
Alastair Plumb Specialist, Head of Sale, European Art

Lot Essay

In his later years, Courbet became increasingly involved in the political turmoil developing in France. He was named chairman of the French Arts Commission and played a greater political role in the French Government. At the fall of the Commune - originally the elective central committee of the French National Guard - Courbet was charged in 1871 with allowing the destruction of several major works of art and was held responsible for the cost of their reconstruction.
After his release from prison in 1872, Courbet moved back to Ornans, the town of his birth, and then, in 1873, to Switzerland to live in exile at La Tour-de-Peilz, a lakeside town a few miles from the 12th century château de Chillon. There, Courbet painted the picturesque view of Chillon, finding solace in its peaceful exterior. He painted numerous views of Lake Geneva and produced some 20 different compositions of the château de Chillon, of which the present lot is an exceptional example.
The château de Chillon is viewed as the best example of a noble fortress of the Middle Ages. It has since become a symbol of the strength and sturdiness of Switzerland, whose angles and shapes are in accord with perfect harmony. Chillon is a unique structure in that one side is a majestic fort facing the ancient road to Italy, and the other a palatial residence facing Lake Geneva. The visible portions of the castle include two dozen buildings set around three courtyards, all merged together in a typical medieval style. Its legendary dungeons were carved directly from the rock that supports the castle foundations.
The dramatic setting of this castle, on a bluff overlooking Lake Geneva, proved to be a popular theme that found a ready audience among Courbet's buyers. He would often include such picturesque details as sailboats in the composition, while at other times, the view would be stark and bleak only showing the imposing château with no human presence.
The painting juxtaposes rock, water, landscape and buildings in a way that recalls the many paintings of his homeland in the Franche-Comté. The castle, although man-made and dominating the composition, seems almost subsumed into the landscape, creating a sense of peaceful, but lonely grandeur.
The history of the château most likely held a symbolic meaning for Courbet. The landmark had inspired writers such as Dumas, Shelley and Hugo, and artists such as Turner and Delacroix. Most notably, it provided the setting for Byron's well-known 1819 poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, and was subsequently reproduced frequently by photographers and engravers.
Byron had been inspired by the celebrated political prisoner, Bonivard, who had been confined for four years in its dungeon in 1532. Most likely, Courbet identified his own exile with Bonivard's and thereby the château.
The present work is accompanied by a certificate from the Institut Gustave Courbet dated 16 October 2021, and will be included in their forthcoming Gustave Courbet catalogue raisonné.

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