Oil on canvas signed and dated 1883 lower left
Jacques François Clère received a classical teaching before joining the Fine Arts School at twenty-two in Léon Cogniet’s class. The year after, he started to exhibit at the Salon of French Artists some anecdotal or historical compositions. He gained the Great Prize of Rome in 1855 for his painting Caesar in his barque.
In his paintings we can see the admiration of the young artist for Eugène Delacroix, his turbulent palette and the dynamism of his compositions. Academic painter with precise technique, Clère devoted himself to history painting and portrait, that gave him a large clientele. Among his works, we can note a triptych named Charlotte Corday, exhibited at the 1880’s Salon.
The virtuosity of our painting is flagrant. The drawing is very precise and the line is meticulous. In this painting we can see the attirance of the artist for erudition and historical truth and also for change of scene and Orient.
The scene is taking place in a private room of whom decoration is typical from the Directoire, with rich interlacings, garlands, Antique pilasters and statues. The artist represented one of the most emblematic figure of the Parisian life at the beginning of the 19th century in the person of Madame Germaine de Staël, writer and philosopher. She is sitting on the right from where she can admire the young dancing girl whose features evoque Madame Récamier’s. This scene is typical of Parisian salon, and the artist shows us the shawl dance called Le pas du schall. This danse has been introduced arround the 1800’s in Parisian society and especially to Madame Récamier who was very close friend with Madame de Staël.
The history of costume teached us that at the end of the XVIIIth century and after Bonaparte’s expedition in Egypt and in Italy, women started to wear on their shoulders a piece of material called by the English word « shawl ». The word « schall » has been used in 1811 by Chateaubriand and was coming from Indian word « shal ».
The tamburine of the girl wearing a turban brings us to Orient. Her nonchalant attitude and her accessories remind us about some sketches by Ingres.
By the representation of Madame de Staël, the evocation of Chateaubriand and Ingres, this painting is a complete homage to Romanticism and its greatest precursors.