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Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Tête de Madeleine

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Tête de Madeleine
stamped with signature 'Renoir.' (Lugt 2137b; upper right)
oil on canvas
15 3/8 x 12¼ in. (39 x 31 cm.)
Painted in 1912-1914
Estate of the artist.
Justin K. Thannhauser, New York.
Galerie Hervé Odermatt, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, November 1993.
Bernheim-Jeune, ed., L'Atelier de Renoir, Paris, 1931, no. 414 (illustrated as part of a larger canvas, pl. 134).

Lot Essay

This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue critique of Pierre-Auguste Renoir being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute established from the archives of François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.

This painting will be included in volume IV or subsequent volumes of the Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles de Renoir being prepared by Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville published by Bernheim-Jeune.

Renoir has here portrayed Madeleine Bruno, a local village girl who began modeling for him in the early 1910s. It was in 1913 that the artist was forced to dismiss Gabrielle Renard, his favorite model and studio assistant since 1895, because of increasing friction with his wife Aline. Madeleine soon became a member of his household at Les Collettes in Cagnes. She is featured in a pair of important bather paintings, both entitled Baigneuse assise, done in 1913 and 1914 (the latter in the Art Institute of Chicago). In early 1915 she was joined by another girl, 16-year-old Andrée Heuchling, who affectionately became known to the artist's family as Dédée. Madeleine posed for the standing nude in the foreground in Deux baigneuses, 1916, while Renoir placed the partially clad and seated figure of Dédée behind her. In Le concert, 1919 (The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto), Renoir depicted Madeleine listening while Dédée played the mandolin. The two young women were the models in Renoir's final masterwork, Grande baigneuses, 1918-1919 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), his paean to peace in celebration of the end of the First World War.

In contrast to the amply proportioned figure she displays in these paintings, as well as in the present portrait, Madeleine actually possessed a slighter build and she is reported to have found it difficult to recognize her features in Renoir's depictions of her. This, of course, was the result of Renoir's deliberate and preferred stylization of the female body, in which he sought to merge the palpable physicality of living flesh with the idealization of form, in order to achieve a timelessly majestic and monumental classicism. Barbara E. While has aptly characterized his quest: "The quintessence of beauty for him was still sensuousness, best expressed through plump young women who are the link between the cycle of life and artistic creativity" (in Renoir, His Life, Art and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 250).

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