James Ensor (1860-1949)
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James Ensor (1860-1949)

Péchés Capitaux dominés par la Mort, from: Les Sept Péchés Capitaux (The Deadly Sins dominated by Death, from: The Seven Deadly Sins) (D., Cr., T. 126; E. 131)

James Ensor (1860-1949)
Péchés Capitaux dominés par la Mort, from: Les Sept Péchés Capitaux (The Deadly Sins dominated by Death, from: The Seven Deadly Sins) (D., Cr., T. 126; E. 131)
etching extensively hand-coloured with watercolour and gouache, 1904, on Japan paper laid onto a cardboard support, signed in ink, a small abrasion upper right, with a tiny paper loss at the lower right edge

S. 95 x 150 mm.
Mira Jacob Wolfovska (1912-2004), Paris, without her blindstamp.
Bateau Lavoir, Paris, 1978, no. 126.
Strasbourg/Basel, 1995-96, no. 150.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

The series Les Sept Péchés Capitaux was created over a period of 16 years, from 1888 to 1904 and was collated and published in an album in 1904. Eugène Demolder, a friend and enthusiastic supporter of Ensor’s work, provided the preface:
'The seven sins, as old as the catholic world, have tempted many painters. The Italians, faithful – in spite of the bells of the campaniles and the venerable basilicas – to paganism found in them a pretext to portray voluptuous scenes. The Gothic artists who appeared, when they painted, to unfold hands, which had been joined in prayer, saw the sins in a pious light, through the delicate stained-glass windows of their mysticism. Bosch and Brueghel filled them with baroque marionettes, grotesque drunkards, ridiculous females, in crazy landscapes where chapels burn. The 17th century produced powdered, perfumed and rouged sin, endowing it with a perverse prettiness. Certain modern artists have poured the morbid elegance of today in it. James Ensor mixes brutality with devilry. Ferociously, he gives us the image of his contemporaries in the merciless mirror of his irony. He is without pity. He doesn’t embellish. With mocking realism he accentuates the ugliness, the hideous features.’ (quoted in: E. Gillis & P. Florizoone, James Ensor - A Collection of Prints, Artemis Fine Art, London & Paris/C. G. Boerner, New York & Düsseldorf, 2002, p. 170). (See lots 75-77).
The cover represents the winged figure of Death presiding over an allegory of each sin. From right to left are: Sloth, represented by a somnolent man in a nightgown and cap, with a snail crawling over him; Envy, bearing a bloody knife; Gluttony, relishing a sausage; Lust, who fondles a woman who then accosts him in Anger; Avarice, clutching a bag of gold, and Pride, represented by a soldier sporting a bearskin hat.

In this remarkable hand-coloured example Ensor has unusually extended the image beyond the platemark by attaching strips of paper to the sheet at right and left. The image is then reworked so extensively in gouache that it becomes a small, jewel-like painting. The words Peches and Capitaux are faintly visible to the left and right of Death’s outstretched wings, and the work is signed in black ink within the subject.

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