(Copenhagen, 1825 - Copenhagen, 1910)
Oil on canvas
H. 122 cm ; L. 74 cm
Signed and dated 1842 lower right
Exhibition: most probably the Charlottenborg Salon of 1845, under the number 110, titled Modelfigur, awarded a silver medal
Provenance : Emilio Fernando Bolt (c.1860 - 1944), acquired from the artist around 1900, then by descent
Our painting was made during the summer sessions organized between 1839 and 1850 by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853), the master of Danish painting in the first half of the 19th century, in his studio-private apartment on the first floor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. The master would gather a few students there between June and September, renting one or two models for the season, who were painted from different angles, with the artists (including Eckersberg himself) sitting next to each other. Eckersberg used to paint a fairly small version, the students larger formats.
The work is part of the legendary context of Eckersberg's research and reform of nude studies, particularly female nudes, to make this a genre of painting in its own right.
Following his two-year stay in Jacques-Louis David's studio in Paris in 1811, Eckersberg had been sensitized to work on the nude and in particular on live models, in natural light, whereas in Denmark drawings were then only made from plaster casts of antique models or other mannequins. In 1822, when he had been a professor there since 1818, it was he who had the Royal Academy of Copenhagen authorize the study of nudes, no longer in the evening by candlelight, but in natural light; from 1833 on, it was again he who allowed students to work on nude female models, even though the official authorization from the Academy did not come until 1839.
That same year, he instituted his summer sessions, privately, to orient his painting and that of his students towards a new conception of the representation of models: even if the nude remains the true theme, it is no longer a simple academic exercise. The subject is placed in a contemporary interior, with a rather sophisticated decor, and occupied with an intimate activity (this type of intimist vein will be found later in Degas or Cassatt for example); thus in our painting, the young woman is supposed to take off her clothes to wash herself. The aim is that the viewer should forget that the master and his pupils are painting a model during a posing session, and should instead have the impression of being alone with the model, but invisible, almost like a voyeur in spite of himself. Moreover, in these paintings, the model never looks towards the spectator, inducing a psychological distance with him, whereas model and artist are in reality physically very close. On the other hand, these are not idealized nudes either, even if Eckersberg, as proof of his debt to the antique, chooses rather classical models and poses. The sensuality is real and very present, with dreamy, even innocent, expressions, and out of time (the models do not seem to have a defined age), attitudes and movements suave and slow, and especially with clothes which hide or reveal skilfully parts of the female body: tops of the buttocks, pronounced hips...
75 000 €