An Exceptional Eugène Isabey Acquired by Montreal at the TEFAF

1. Eugène Isabey (1803-1886)
Funeral of a Naval Officer, under Louis XVI, 1836
Oil on Canvas - 245 x 166 cm
Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Richard L. Feigen & Co

18/3/13 - Acquisitions - Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts - Who is this dead officer being cast into the sea from a French ship with a cannon salute ? The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal, which has just purchased this imposing and magnificent painting at the Maastricht Fair, from Richard Feigen [1], will perhaps be able to identify this figure who until now has remained mysterious. However, one thing is sure, the scene takes place at the end of the Ancien Régime, before the French Revolution, as indicated in the title of the booklet from the Salon of 1836 where the work was displayed : Funeral of a Naval Officer, under Louis XVI.

The image is fascinating : at first glance, it looks like a representation of a naval battle but the eye is quickly drawn to the two white points at the centre of the painting, the body wrapped in the shroud about to be swallowed up by the sea, and the priest who is blessing him with the sailors silently observing as they lean over the ship’s rail ; in the distance, a storm is rising.
A specialist of seascapes, Romantic painter, friend of Delacroix and Bonington, all of Isabey’s art is reunited in this painting which will join two other of his marine works, smaller in size, (including an oil on paper), as well as a small panel recently donated by Mrs. Michèle Stora, representing a different aspect of his oeuvre.

2. Eugène Isabey (1803-1886)
After the Duel, 187(5) ?
Oil on Panel - 38 x 51 cm
Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Richard L. Feigen & Co

Entitled After the Duel, the scene shows a grieving family next to the body of the father killed in a duel, while the victor flees through an arched stairway. Though a late work, this painting still reflects the artist’s Romantic spirit. We find ourselves on a theatre stage or in an episode from a novel by Alexandre Dumas or Walter Scott. The artist represented other duel scenes, for example in a small canvas residing at the Musée National du château de Compiègne.

Version française

Didier Rykner, jeudi 21 mars 2013


[1] We already pointed out this acquisition on the article on TEFAF. This canvas came up for auction at Piasa, Hôtel Drouot on 14 December 2011.

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