Madeleine Lemaire (Les Arcs 1845 - Paris 1928)
The Modern Portrait or Presumed Portrait of Anna de Noailles, c. 1913-1914, oil on original canvas, 180 x 120.3 cm
Galerie Alain Lesieutre, Paris, before 1971.
Bruno Roy Collection.
Sotheby's, London, June 20, 1989, lot 44: Woman seated in a Dagobert armchair.
Sotheby's, New York, May 24, 1995, lot 366: Woman Seated in a Dagobert Armchair.
1914 Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. 24th exhibition (Paris), from April 15 to June 30
1914, n° 758 : Modern Portrait.
1971 Fondation Paul Ricard (Bendor), L'Art et la Vie en France à la Belle Epoque, September - October 1971, n° 248 : portrait of a seated woman.
This portrait is a brilliant discovery among the work of Madeleine Lemaire, renowned for the quality of her paintings of flowers. Already Marcel Proust, who assiduously frequented her salon as early as 1892, worked on the posterity of his friend by affirming that "she has not created less landscapes, churches, characters, for her extraordinary talent extends to all genres1 "; a sensitive tribute to an accomplished artist. Our painting accurately reflects Madeleine Lemaire's love for her craft and the authentic image of the society of her time.
This portrait of a young woman seated in a Dagobert armchair is part of Madeleine Lemaire's last submission to the 1914 Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. At almost 70 years of age, the artist participated one last time in the Salon of which she was one of the founding members, among many others (Société des Aquarellistes, Société des pastellistes). She then entrusted her last works to the gallery owners Jean Charpentier and Georges Petit. At the dawn of the First World War, the reputation of the artist precedes it. She was, for some time to come, a star of the artistic and social circles, whose paintings sold at a high price. Her receptions attracted the whole of Paris. The Comédie française played at her home. Born into the upper middle class, Madeleine Lemaire worked from an early age to perfect her talent as a painter while running a musical and literary salon of considerable historical significance. Her independence of character and her high intellectual standards have come down to us through the traits of two Proustian heroines in A la recherche du temps perdu: Madame de Villeparisis and Madame de Verdurin.
Among her most recent successes, in 1900 she received a silver medal for the whole of her work at the Universal Exhibition; six years later she was elected vice-president of the literary prize La Vie Heureuse, which was to become the Femina prize. The same year, Madeleine Lemaire was named Knight of the Legion of Honor. She invested as much in the literary spheres as in the artistic ones.
Our painting was presented under the title of Modern Portrait in 1914. Its reception is unfortunate. The short time of its exhibition - from mid-May to the end of June - was swept away by Germany's declaration of war on France on August 3, 1914, and its realistic aesthetic was quickly depreciated after the War. However, today, this modern portrait perpetuates the mundane representations of the Belle Époque.
Madeleine Lemaire presents this young woman seated on an armchair reminiscent of the shape of King Dagobert's throne, a favorite accessory of the painter that can be recognized in several of his painted portraits and watercolors. At the back, a beige hanging with a stylized flower pattern blends in with the floor to better highlight the pearly sheen of the skin and the satin of the evening gown. The model perfectly embodies the feminine fashion of the time. Its ribbon enhanced with black feathers recall the creations of the House of Lewis, milliner, supplier of the royal families. She is dressed in a black satin sheath with a white veil framing the neckline. The laced shoes with heels and metal buckles match. The freer work of the brush on the ground barely darkened contributes to make the space in which is embedded the beautiful young woman. Her pose, however sought after, seems spontaneous. Playing with her pearl necklace, the discussion is suspended for a time. A fleeting and yet heady appearance, disarming in its simplicity.