An auction record was set in Paris for a painting by the 18th century French artist Jean Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) when La Fontaine (The water urn) sold for €6m (£5.1m).
The signed Old Master painting, a genre study of a women filling a bucket from a water urn or cistern, measuring 19¾ x 17in (50 x 43cm), was part of a small 27-lot auction held on November 22 at Christie’s (25/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) in collaboration with Tajan for a selection of works from the collections of the Marcille family.
They were an 19th century art-collecting dynasty begun by François Marcille (1790-1856) and continued by his sons Camille (1816-75) and Eudoxe (1814-09).
The price exceeded the previous high for a work by the artist: his oil on canvas of L’ouvrière en tapisserie (The Embroiderer) which sold for a hammer price of $3.5m (£2.2m) at Christie’s New York in 2013 (source: Artprice by Artmarket).
Chardin’s genre studies have an obvious debt to earlier Dutch and Flemish paintings of everyday subjects.
The artist was a family favourite for the Marcilles who owned a large number of his works. This particular painting, which passed from François to Eudoxe and then by descent, had been in the family’s possession since at least 1848.
It contributed to the revival of the artist’s reputation in the mid 19th century having been seen in the Marcille home by the Goncourt Brothers who discussed it in their monograph on Chardin. It also featured in the major retrospective of Chardin’s work held in 1979 in Paris, Cleveland and Boston.
Another version of La Fontaine together with its companion genre study La Blanchisseuse (The Washerwoman), originally owned by the art collector Antoine de La Roque (1682-1744), are now in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.
The Chardin accounted for the lion’s share of the €7.9m premium-inclusive total for this auction.
The sale also featured a group of 11 drawings by Pierre-Paul Prudhon (1758-1823). Of these, much the most expensive at a quadruple-estimate €120,000 (£102,565) was his 9¼ x 6½in (23.5 x 16.5cm) chalk drawing of Charlotte de Talleyrand-Périgord (1798-1873).
This charming standing study of the sitter aged seven is one of the very few portraits drawn by the artist, although he also painted three portraits of her father Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838).
Four of the other Prudhon lots were pre-empted by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. They were part of a commission from the artist for designs for a group furnishings for Napoleon’s future empress, Marie-Louise, that were to be made by the leading craftsmen of the day for presentation by the city of Paris.
The chalk drawings on paper in the Marcille collection, three lots of which were formerly in the collection of the bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), depicted an Empire-style armchair and a flambeau which realised €19,000 (£16,240) and three designs for a cradle for Napoleon’s son, the roi de Rome, which sold for €41,000 (£35,040), €18,000 (£15,385) and €10,000 (£8545).
£1 = €1.17