The present lot is an exceptional example of the artist's famous doll-paintings. After Lizzy Ansingh had finished her education at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam in 1897, for a short time she specialised in painting mostly portraits, still lives and tropical birds. In 1900 she began depicting dolls. Her first doll-paintings are open and modest, gradually they became darker and more mysterious and the artist began to place her dolls in inconceivable settings.
The present lot stands out in her oeuvre by the use of bright colours and the many floral decorations, filling the whole canvas. The little Chinese doll depicted here is assumed to be 'Piepje' and he is recognisable by the dagger he is wearing on his belt. She used him several times as a model in her paintings (see: A.Venema, De Amsterdamse Joffers, Baarn 1977, p. 87).
The artist wrote the title and the line of a poem on the reverse of the canvas: '"Ontwaakt"/Ick lagh als in het graf, ick was als doot geschreven/Eer my u soon en son, O Venus, had genaect.' These lines are the first two lines of a poem from the Dutch 17th century poet Jacob Cats from his book Sinne en minnebeelden (1618):
Lieven doet Leven
Ick lach als in het graf, ick was als doot geschreven,
Eer my u soon en son, o Venus, had genaect;
Sijn vleugels gaf u soon, u son gaf my het leven,
Dies ben ick van een romp een levend dier gemaect:
Ick, die verholen was, ben dapper opgesteken,
Ick, die int duyster lagh, vliegh om het helder licht;
Ick, die geen dier geleeck, ben geestig opgestreken;
Siet! Wat al wonders doet een lodderlijck gesicht.
It is very likely that the artist used this poem as a source of inspiration for the present lot. The poem refers to the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly. The title 'Ontwaakt' [Awaken] can be interpreted as the awakening of the doll in the painting that steps out of his cocoon-like home to enter the world outside, transformed into a beautiful butterfly. There are caterpillars, cocoons and butterflies, everywhere in the painting, referring to the different stages of this transformation. The crane hovering above the doll's head holds a ring in its beak, which stands for watchfulness ['waakzaamheid']. It may warn the butterfly to be aware of love in the world it is about to enter.
Pierre Alexandre Regnault (1868-1954) was one of the most important modern art collectors in Holland until his death. His collection, which he formed throughout his life, contained paintings by international masters such as Braque, Chagall, De Chirico, Van Dongen, Kandinsky and Picasso. Regnault started collecting around 1896, when he became acquainted with the Dutch artist Johan Scherrewitz, who influenced his earliest purchases. In the years 1916-1917 Regnault was for a short period intrigued by Symbolism and acquired works by the French symbolist Odilon Redon and the Dutch artist Janus de Winter. It is very likely that the present lot was acquired in the same period. Shortly after, Regnault's attention turned towards expressionism and other modern art movements (see: C. Roodenburg-Schadd, Goed modern werk. De collectie Regnault in Het Stedelijk, Zwolle, 1995, pp. 27-30).