Alcide-Théophile Robaudi (Nice, 1850 - Paris, 1928), The Fencing Lesson, 1887, oil on canvas, height with frame 87,79; width with frame 61,81 in.
Signed and dated lower left « A Robaudi. 87 »
Provenance: Acquired by the grandparents of the present owners at the end of the 1940s.
Exhibited : Salon des Artistes Français, Paris, 1887, n° 2045.
Literature : Salon des Artistes Français, Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, gravure et lithographie des artistes vivants exposés au Palais des Champs-Elysées le 1er mai 1887, Paris, Paul Dupont, n° 2045, p. 169.
Exposition des Beaux-Arts, Catalogue illustré, peinture & sculpture, Paris, Ludovic Baschet,1887, p. 154 (reproduction).?
French painter Alcide-Théodore Robaudi (1850 - 1928) was a well-known illustrator working for the major publishing companies in France (Conquet, Hachette, Calmann-Lévy and Lemerre). This elegant portrait of a young fencer is a unique opportunity to rediscover his career as an academic painter since his artworks were exhibited at the Parisian Salons and purchased by the French State to adorn museums of France under the Third Republic.
The painting represents a young boy during his fencing lesson. The artwork strikes by its sobriety and its high quality of execution. The main motif of the painting is the child posing
with an air of defiance. The young model’s figure is isolated on a background of dark color whose luminous variations testify of Alcide-Théodore Robaudi’s subtle style. The paint details reflect the virtuosity of the painter. Focusing closely on his model, the artist pays particular attention to the description of materials and colors. The sides of the white cotton shirt, treated almost in an abstract way, contrast with the delicate rendering of the black velvet pants. The dark green stockings recall the color of the boy's eyes. A protective helmet on the ground delimits the surface of the platform where the fencer stands.
The static pose, the bottom view of the figure, and the composition of the painting reduced to the essentials, are similar to the portraits of children by Carolus-Duran a French academic painter of the Third Republic. Both have in common to draw their inspiration from the Spanish School of Painting and especially from paintings by Diego Velazquez. The vibrating and unctuous brushstroke of the latter renders the particular psychological state of his sitters that Robaudi seeks to reproduce through a perfect drawing and a rich chromatic harmony in green and in brown. The triumph of the Spanish style - over the Italian legacy of Raphael in France – had already appeared some twenty years earlier in Edouard Manet’ paintings (Boy Carrying a Sword, 1861, MET and The Fifer 1866, Musée d'Orsay), that inspired Robaudi’s Fencing Lesson.
By exhibiting his painting at the 1887 Salon des Artistes Français, Alcide-Théodore Robaudi demonstrated his creativeness by choosing an original subject. Until then, the art of arms was more often referring to historical fight representations of a duel, as the fencing lesson displayed by American painter Walter Gay at the 1879 Paris Salon. Images of fencing as a combative sport were rather rare at the Salon. Portraits of experienced adult fencers were displayed at the Salon (Jean Antoine Injalbert, the Master of Arms Arsène Vigeant, Salon des Artistes Français, 1886 or Gari Melchers the Fencer, Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, 1906) but none of them share the charm of Robaudi's juvenile figure.
Robaudi had already exhibited five times at the Paris Salon when he displayed The fencing lesson in 1887. He showed his paintings at twenty-three Salon venues, from 1883 to 1923. Controlled by the French State, the admittance at the Salon allowed artists to distinguish themselves among their peers, to present their works to future buyers and to promote their art thanks to the media coverage of the event. Robaudi's artworks were noticed several times. The French State bought two paintings in 1876 and in 1880. The Pilori (Notre-Dame de Paris), which represents Quasimodo rescued by Esmeralda, is still at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nice. The Murder of Chlodomer’s sons, which was highly praised at the 1880 Salon, was acquired by the French government for the town hall of Pézenas. Alcide-Théodore Robaudi's paintings in French public collections in Grandville and Nice are not only the results of French State’s purchases at the Salons but also of donations. Nowadays, Alcide-Théodore Robaudi's paintings are appraised worldwide, featured in the sale catalogs of major auction houses.
Alcide-Theodore Robaudi's ambitious career went far beyond his work as an illustrator. The fencing lesson synthesizes by its subject, its composition and its treatment, the powerful attraction of his painting.
28 000 €