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Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, R.A. (1836-1912)
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Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, R.A. (1836-1912)

Farniente

Details
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, R.A. (1836-1912)
Farniente
signed and inscribed 'L. Alma-Tadema Op. CCXLIV' (lower right)
oil on panel
9¼ x 6½ in. (23.5 x 16.6 cm.)
Provenance
Commissioned by Benoit Constant Coquelin, Paris, 1882.
Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 6 June 1906 (no. 75).
Paul Chevallier, Paris, until October 1906.
Messrs. M. Knoedler, New York, until May 1909.
M. Dinsmore, Staatsburg; Coleman Auction, New York, circa 1969 (to Messrs Ira Spanierman, New York).
Christian Huemen, New York.
Literature
C. Vosmaer, L. Alma-Tadema and C,J.G. Vosmaer, Alma Tadema Catalogue Raisonné, unpublished manuscript, Leiden, circa 1885 (with some later additions), p. 287.
P. C. Standing, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema O.M., R.A., London, 1905, pp. 34-74 (illustrated).
R. Dircks, 'The later works of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema O.M., R.A., R.W.S.', Art Journal, Supplementary monograph, Christmas issue, December 1910, p. 31.
V.G. Swanson, The Biography and Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, London, 1990, no. 280, p. 218 (illustrated p. 413).
Exhibited
London, Grosvenor Galleries, Winter, 1882, no. 73.
Special Notice

VAT rate of 17.5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer’s premium.

Lot Essay

Accompanying the entry in the Cocquelin catalogue were the following lines, from an unidentified poet:

Laïs, dont la beauté demeure sans égale,
Laïs, reine d'amour - depuis qu'elle eut seize ans! -
Seule, a monté la côte où chante la cigale,
Pour fuir un jour au moins, l'ennui des courtisans.

Elle a vêta sa chair rose d'un péplos sombre,
Et du tissa léger de son écharpe mauve,
Apaisé, comme d'un souple nuage d'ombre,
Les reflets excitants de sa crinière fauve.
Dans le lointain, le temple où sommeillent les dieux,
Ses deux bras indolents écartés, et la mine
Lasse, elle sourit à l'horizon radieux.

Le ciel es pur; la mer, aux vagues éternelles,
Expire à son oreille un chant de volupté,
La brise, pour calmer le feu de ses prunelles,
Baise ses longs cils bruns de son humidité.

Et Laïs, tout entière à cette griserie,
De son passé galant perdant le souvenir,
Sent un amour nouveau dans son âme meurtire,
Et rêve qu'un dieu, pour la prendre, va venir!

Laïs was a courtesan celebrated for her beauty, and the inspiration for many artists, most notably Holbein, whose portrait of the courtesan Magdelana Offenburg as Lais Corinthiaca hangs in Basel.

Dr. Vern Swanson in his catalogue raisonné notes that this oil 'was probably begun before a watercolour version of the subject entitled Dolce far niente, (opus CCXLIII) which was finished five days earlier. The pictures are in reverse of one another and illustrate Alma-Tadema's method of using photgraphy to aid his art. In this instance he would have painted the watercolour from the negative of the photograph achieving a reverse image from which the engraver could work'. Both oil and water-colour derive their female figure from the woman seated in the upper background of Sappho and Alcaeus, an oil of 1881.

We are grateful to Dr Vern Swanson of the Springville Museum, Utah, for his help in the preparation of this catalogue entry.
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