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Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre

Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre
signed 'J.J. Tissot' (lower left)
oil on panel
17 1/2 x 8 3/8 in. (44.4 x 21.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1880.
Perhaps, the painting sold by James Tissot in 1886 to J. Bulla, partner of Paris art-dealers Bulla Frères et Jouy, as Visiteurs au Louvre, Salle des Saisons for 1,000 francs.
Probably, Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris art dealer.
Probably, His sale; Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris, 12-14 June 1907, lot 99, as La Galerie d’Apollon du Louvre (described as oil on canvas, 43.5 x 30.5 cm, signed James Tissot), bought by M. Gérard for 500 francs.
Anonymous sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 27 June 1914, lot 76 as La Galerie des Antiques au Louvre, oil on panel, 44 x 21 cm, sold for 65 francs.
Anonymous sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 17 June 1921, lot 117 as La Visite au musée du Louvre, oil on panel, 44.5 x 22 cm, sold for 125 francs
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 22 November 2006, lot 211, sold after the sale to the mother of the present owner.
W.E. Misfeldt, The Albums of James Tissot, Ohio, 1982, fig. 42 (this or a similar version).
M. Wentworth, James Tissot, Oxford, 1984, p. 163 (for the other versions).
K. Matyjaszkiewicz, James Tissot, London, 1984, p.122 and fig. 55 (this or a similar version).
K. Matyjaszkiewicz, ‘Tissot’s Sales Notebook (Carnet de Ventes),’ in Melissa E. Buron, ed., James Tissot, San Francisco, 2019, pp. 281 & 341.
K. Matyjaszkiewicz, ‘Creating and Meeting Demand: James Tissot’s London Replicas,’ in Julie F. Codell, ed., Victorian Artists’ Autograph Replicas: Auras, Aesthetics, Patronage and the Art Market, London, 2020, p. 248.
Perhaps, Paris, Galerie Sedelmeyer, Exposition J. J. Tissot, 19 April – 15 June 1885, no. 25, as 'Étrangers au Louvre'.

Brought to you by

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

Lot Essay

After a decade of success in Paris ended with the Franco-Prussian War and Commune of 1870-71, the French artist James Tissot settled in London. Having been christened Jacques Joseph when he was born in Nantes, north-west France, in 1836, Tissot had been called James since childhood and was a great anglophile. While living in London from autumn 1871 to November 1882, he maintained contact with family and close friends in France, visiting Paris regularly. In 1878 Tissot had seen the Paris Exposition Universelle and was taken with the idea of presenting his work in a one-man Paris exhibition the following year. Although this plan did not come to fruition, Tissot made several visits to Paris in 1879. During that time he painted a number of on-the-spot studies in the Louvre museum. Back in London, and later in his Paris studio, Tissot used these oil studies for compositions featuring Louvre sightseers.
Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre is set in the Musée des Antiques, the Louvre’s ground-floor galleries of Greek, Roman and Etruscan sculpture, opened in 1800. The Musée des Antiques occupied a suite of rooms originally created in 1655-58 as summer apartments for Anne of Austria, mother of King Louis XIV. Anne had been regent during the childhood of Louis and had to move out of the Queen’s Apartments when he was old enough to reign. Her new suite, designed by architect Louis le Vau (who also worked at Versailles), was inspired by Italian palaces. Ceilings and walls were decorated with frescoes by Italian Baroque artist Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, framed in gilded stucco surrounds by French sculptor Michel Anguier. Fresco themes included gods and goddesses, allegories of the seasons, elements and heavenly bodies, as well as Biblical figures reflecting the virtues of Anne of Austria. When, after the French Revolution, the former royal apartments were turned into a museum, this sumptuously decorated suite was considered ideal to house ancient sculpture from Italy. Situated on the ground floor it had the added advantage of weight-bearing floors to carry heavy marbles. Architect Jean-Arnaud Raymond opened up the suite of rooms by removing some walls and doors, adding columns taken by Napoleon from Aix-la-Chapelle, which had originally come from Roman buildings.
Tissot’s visitors are in the Salle de Septime Sévère (Hall of Septimius Severus), initially called the Salle des Romains (Hall of Romans). A Roman column in the foreground marks the separation of this room from the Salle de la Paix (Hall of Peace), initially called the Salle des Hommes illustres (Hall of Illustrious Men), from which Tissot’s view is taken. The two rooms were originally the vestibule of Anne’s Grand Cabinet. In the distance is the Salle des Antonins (Hall of Antonines), with a full-length sculpture of Marcus Aurelius. He stands with right arm raised and left hand on hip, silhouetted against bright daylight and outdoor vegetation visible through a window. To his left, in the Salle de Septime Sévère, is a bust of Lucius Verus. Truncated on the left of the painting is the bust of an unknown man with oak-leaf wreath. On the right, behind the male visitor, is a full-length marble of an unknown Roman woman as Ceres.
The young man is consulting his Baedeker guidebook, distinguishable by its red cover. His female companion is looking directly at the viewer instead of at room decoration or sculpture. They are a reprise of the tourist couple in Tissot’s 1873-4 London Visitors (Milwaukee Art Museum and Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio), set in the portico of London’s National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. When London Visitors was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874, reviewers commented on the way the young woman’s eyes engaged the viewer’s. Tissot frequently reworked elements from earlier pictures many years later. Some of his London compositions were known in France through Tissot’s etched versions but many had not been reproduced in print, or exhibited outside England before their rapid purchase by dealers and private collectors. For his projected Paris exhibition Tissot could revisit earlier ideas and figure groupings without fear of criticism for repetition.
In 1880 Tissot sold a larger version of Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre (73.7 x 49.5 cm, Santa Barbara Museum of Art) for 7,500 francs to the New York art dealer M. Knoedler & Co., through Paris dealers Bulla Frères, as Le Louvre (Salle des Saisons). Strictly speaking the Salle des Saisons (Hall of Seasons) is the former antechamber of Anne of Austria’s apartments, not the former vestibule Tissot depicted, but the name was often used as shorthand for the suite of rooms. There are more tourists included in this version, which shows more of the gallery space to the right: two additional male visitors stand on the far right, looking up at the ceiling decoration; two other men stand in the distance beside Marcus Aurelius, highlighting that sculpture’s large scale (they are the height of its plinth). The young man with guidebook is looking up at the ceiling, or at Roman sculptural reliefs displayed on the walls. He and the young woman stand to the right of the Roman column rather than in front of it. She wears a black fur cape, like in the painting currently for sale, but has a black bonnet and black-trimmed grey dress, echoing greys in the stone column and contrasting with the rich red of the gallery walls. This figure was modelled by Tissot’s great love, Mrs Kathleen Newton. She died of tuberculosis in 1882, precipitating Tissot’s return to living in Paris. Although Tissot depicted her in A Winter Walk (1880, Private Collection) with black fur muff and red-trimmed bonnet similar to those in our painting, the face in our picture is based on a different model.
Knoedler sold the large Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre in March 1884 to New York art collector Mrs Mary Morgan. A smaller version (formerly collection of H. Stewart Black) was sold by Tissot in 1880 from exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, for 2,125 francs. This smaller oil was painted in a range of grey-browns, perhaps with a view to making an etched version (monochrome being easier to translate into print). It varies also in having more of the large nude sculpture of Emperor Pertinax visible behind her head, as well as a reflection in the polished floor to her left of Marcus Aurelius’s head. Both paintings, as well as the work currently for sale, were based on Tissot’s on-the-spot oil study of the Salle de Septime Sévère (Musée du Louvre, Paris). The study includes sculptures but omits any sightseers.
In our version Tissot boldly truncates the 1880 composition, cutting off half the gallery space to the column’s right for a more vertical-format picture. Reducing figures to a foreground pair, Tissot moves them in front of the column, which remains off-centre. The column shaft and young woman create a strong vertical against equally strong horizontals of cornice and polished floor. This almost abstract composition draws on Tissot’s interests in photography and Japanese prints, seen also in the way he cuts off things abruptly at the picture’s edges, like in a snapshot. Tissot plays with light more in our version, adding warm afternoon glow to bring out the ornate ceiling’s gilded stucco and its depth of modelling, emphasised by red tints on the young woman’s plaid overskirt and bonnet. Painting different light effects was one of Tissot’s great skills, demonstrated here in the light playing across shiny brushed fur, polished floors, matte and polished marbles. He also includes a favourite contre-jour device in the sculpture silhouetted against a window.
A photograph of this or a very similar painting was published in the auction catalogue to the 1907 sale of Paris art dealer Charles Sedelmeyer’s collection. His painting is catalogued as 43.5 x 30.5 cm. (rather than our 44.4 x 21.3 cm.) and oil on canvas (rather than panel), with signature James (rather than J. J.) Tissot. Sedelmeyer’s second Tissot painting, L’Aesthetique (Pérez Simón Collection), was in the same auction and erroneously catalogued as ‘signed James [rather than J. J.] Tissot,’ so it is possible the same error was made for Sedelmeyer’s Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre (catalogued as La Galerie d’Apollon du Louvre), and the descriptions of size and medium may also be incorrect. However, given that Tissot often painted several versions of the same composition, it is possible that Sedelmeyer’s was a different work to our painting. Tissot recorded in his sales notebook the dealer’s commission in 1885 for 2,000 francs of L’Aesthetique, a smaller-size replica of the painting (Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico) Tissot exhibited at Sedelmeyer’s gallery that year with his Femme à Paris series and other works. But there is no mention in Tissot’s notebook of the other Louvre sale. Perhaps the second painting was a gift from Tissot or payment in kind (only cash sales are recorded in Tissot’s notebook). Alternatively, Sedelmeyer may have acquired from fellow dealer J. Bulla the Vis[iteurs] au Louvre / Salle des Saisons that Tissot recorded as selling to Bulla in 1886 for 1,000 francs. Bulla’s picture could be our painting, whether or not Sedelmeyer owned it.
L’Aesthetique is set in a corner of the Louvre’s Musée des Antiques, with a female artist at work sketching while a couple of visitors sit beside her. Other compositions based on sketches Tissot made in the Louvre include oil and watercolour versions of L’Escalier Nord du Louvre (oil: Christie’s, New York, 22 October 1997, lot 99). One of his on-the-spot sketches depicts Kathleen Newton and two male visitors testing the echo of a large porphyry basin in the Salle des Caryatides (Christie’s, New York, 27 October 2004, lot 73).
We are grateful to Krystyna Matyjaskiewicz for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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