PAUL RANSON (1861-1909)
PAUL RANSON (1861-1909)
PAUL RANSON (1861-1909)
PAUL RANSON (1861-1909)
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PAUL RANSON (1861-1909)

Temple de vaudou ou La charmeuse de serpent

PAUL RANSON (1861-1909)
Temple de vaudou ou La charmeuse de serpent
signed ‘.Ranson.’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
28 x 36 ¼ in. (71 x 92 cm.)
Painted in 1901
Michel Ranson, Paris (son of the artist).
Brigitte Ranson-Bitker, Paris (by descent from the above).
Galleria del Levante, Milan (acquired from the above, by 1966, until at least 1982).
Private collection, Italy (acquired from the above).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
R. Barilli, "Il gruppo dei Nabis" in L’Arte moderna, 1967, vol. II, no. 12, p. 96 (illustrated in color; dated circa 1890).
J. Breuille, Le monde de la peinture, Autour de l'impressionnisme, de Gauguin à Bonnard, Paris, 1982, no. 2 (illustrated in color; dated circa 1890).
B. Ranson-Bitker and G. Genty, Paul Ranson: Catalogue raisonné, Japonisme, Symbolisme, Art Nouveau, Paris, 1999, p. 315, no. 534 (illustrated in color).
Paris, XVIIe Salon de la Société des Artistes Indépendants, April-May 1901, p. 53, no. 840.
Munich, Galleria del Levante, Pont-Aven und Nabis, November 1966-January 1967, no. 32 (illustrated; dated circa 1890 and titled Bezauberer der Schlangen).
Milan, Galleria del Levante, Simbolismo & Art Nouveau, December 1969-January 1970 (illustrated; dated circa 1890).
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Weltkulturen und Moderne Kunst, June-September 1972, p. 108, no. 353 (dated circa 1890 and titled Schlangenbeschwörer).
Bologna, Quartiere fieristico di Bologna, Arte fiera '76, Mostra Mercato d'Arte Contemporanea, May 1976, p. 311.

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Lot Essay

Exhibited at the "Société des Artistes Indépendants" Salon in 1901, created by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in 1884 to defend avant-garde painting, this painting is astonishing for its iconography deeply rooted in the “fin-de-siècle” culture. In the center of the composition, painted in a bright yellow, we discover a "sphinge", reminiscent of an ancient Egyptian bestiary that Symbolist painters were fond of. Indeed, in the 1870s-1900s, we find multiple representations of it in the works of Gustave Moreau, but also Félicien Rops and Alexandre Séon. An emblematic figure of the “femme fatale”, the "sphinge" is here rather part of the exotic dimension of the decor. It is moreover surrounded by stylized lions, painted in flat colors, whose layout seems more dreamlike than archaeologically accurate. In front of it stand two musicians, one striking a horizontally laid drum, very similar to the traditional Cambodian “Samphor”. On the left, a character standing in a hieratic pose seems to have stepped right out of Odilon Redon’s mystical paintings. A naked woman, exhibiting an enormous snake, completes this group, thus evoking Haitian rites that gave this painting its title “Vaudou”. Ranson, who regularly resided since 1897 at the Ermitage near Alençon, in the property of his friend Georges Lacombe, that is to say in the French countryside, livens up this scene with luxuriant vegetation, which adds to its strangeness. However, one would struggle to find a perfect narrative logic to this composition. Its origin most likely lies in the fascination exerted on artists of the last third of the 19th century by extra-European civilizations discovered through World’s Fairs. In 1889 and 1900, a complete Cambodian pagoda was reconstructed and admired by all visitors. Heirs of Gauguin, whose paintings they had physically seen hanging on the walls of the “Café Volpini” during the 1889 Paris Exposition, the Nabis practiced formal syntheses and religious syncretism. This fin-de-siècle Paris was passionate about the most diverse beliefs and cultures, as evidenced by Jules Bois’ book Les Petites religions de Paris (1894). Paris then had temples dedicated to Isis and one will remember that his friend Lacombe made a large sculpture of it (Paris, Musée d’Orsay). Ranson himself painted in 1890, like Odilon Redon, a Christ and Buddha (The Hague, Kunstmuseum) and was fascinated by esotericism discovered through the works of Edouard Schuré, such as Les grands initiés (1889). In it, Schuré aimed to synthesize the thoughts of Rama, Krishna, Hermes, Moses, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato, Jesus. The essential part of the present painting is probably not in deciphering its philosophy or spirituality, but rather in the sensory world it invites us into. Like Douanier Rousseau with his jungles, Ranson takes us into his painting as if into a dream. The presence of a Ranson artwork in the major Walt Disney exhibition (Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, 2007) should not be surprising. The exuberance of the vegetation, the way it becomes the sensory equivalent of the action taking place, is part of a sensibility that finds its continuation in the sets designed by Al Dempster for The Jungle Book (1967). Here Ranson brilliantly synthesizes the history he revisits and a child’s outlook whose freshness he rediscovers.

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