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Frédéric Bazille

The Digital Catalogue Raisonné

by Michel Schulman
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The Fortune Teller

Huile sur toile
61 x 46 cm - 24 x 18 in.
Collection particulière
Dernière mise à jour : 2022-03-29 11:19:07
Référence : MSb-43


Famille de l’artiste, Montpellier - Marc Bazille, frère de l'artiste, Montpellier - Mme Meynier de Salinelles , née Laure Bazille - Collection particulière, Paris - Vente Sotheby’s, Londres, 28 juin 1994, n° 7 - Galerie Schmit, Paris - Collection particulière.


Montpellier, Exposition internationale, 1927, Rétrospective Bazille, n° 16 - Paris, Association des étudiants protestants, 1935, n° 2 (repr.) - Montpellier, musée Fabre, 1941, n° 27 - Paris, galerie Wildenstein, 1950, n° 30 - Montpellier, 1959, n° 19 - Paris, galerie Schmit, 1972,  Les impressionnistes et leurs précurseurs, n° 23, repr. coul. p. 41 - Tokyo, Yamagushi, Fukuoka, 1974, Le Centenaire de l’impressionnisme, n° 1 - Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 46, repr. p. 98 - Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 48, repr. p. 143 - Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 54, repr. p. 249 et p. 175 [Les références sont du catalogue en français].


Poulain, Bazille et ses amis, 1932, n° 31, pp. 133, 217 - Laprade, Beaux-Arts, 29 mars 1935 - Schmidt, Le Semeur, 1935 - Colombier, Candide, 4 avril 1935 - Scheyer, Art Quarterly, printemps 1942, p. 127 - Sarraute, Catalogue de l'œuvre de Frédéric Bazille, 1948, n° 42, p. 101 [Thèse de l'Ecole du Louvre non publiée] - Daulte, Arts, 9 juin 1950 - Daulte, Bazille et son temps, 1952, n° 41, pp. 69, 142, 144, 150 et pp. 182- 183 (repr.) [Thèse sous la direction de Gaston Poulain] - Allier, Lettres françaises, oct. 1959 - Bernat, Jardin des Arts, oct. 1959, repr. p. 764 - Marandel, Cat. exp. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, n° 46, repr. p. 98  - L’Œil, oct. 1985, repr. p. 69 - Dolan, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, fév. 1990, pp. 99-103 - Daulte, Frédéric Bazille  : Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1992, n° 46, pp. 69, 134, 143, 173, repr. coul. p. 136 [Réédition de 1952 avec photos en couleur] - Pitman, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 48, repr. p. 144 - Michel, Bazille, 1992, pp. 81, 247-248 - Bajou, 1993, Frédéric Bazille, p.102 - Pitman, Cat. exp. Montpellier, New York, 1992-1993, n° 48, p. 143 - Bajou, Frédéric Bazille,  1993, p. 86 (repr.) - Beaux-Arts, mai 1994, repr. p. 54 -  Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné, 1995, n° 43, pp. 177-178 - L'Oeil, septembre-octobre 1996, repr. p. 60 - L'Estampille-L'Objet d'art, septembre 1996, repr. p. 77 - Pitman, Bazille : Purity, Pose and Painting in the 1860s, 1998, pp. 175-178 - Hilaire, Jones, Perrin, Cat. exp. Montpellier, Paris, Washington, 2016-2017, cat. 54, repr. p. 249 et P. 175 [Les références sont du catalogue en français] - Schulman, Frédéric Bazille : Catalogue raisonné numérique, 2022, n° 43.

Dissimulated below the window in The Studio on the rue La Condamine, we see The Fortune Teller which represents a young woman, seen from the front and leaning against a table; she is resting her head on her right hand, her left hand is placed on some cards in front of which the young woman seems to hesitate. Her eyes half-closed, she is coiffed in a thick bun and dressed in a strict dress closed with large buttons that go up to the collar.

Bazille gave the figure a plastic precision as he did with the Young Woman with Lowered Eyes, a precision that Pierre du Colombier emphasizes when he says that "the unity of atmosphere, he obtained much more completely in his interior paintings, and in particular in The Fortune Teller, whose strict drawing, unfailing tone and not without boldness have made the name of Degas pronounced" [Colombier, Candide, April 4, 1935, p. 8]. This plastic precision can be found in the drawing of the hands, often thin, long and sometimes badly shaped, in the contours of the face and those of the dress. These contours, as in Woman in a Moorish Costume and the Portrait of Alphonse Tissié in a Cavalryman's Uniform, are highlighted with a long linear brushstroke.

Bazille strangely divided the background of his painting with an oblique line. He has placed colors, on one side gray and ochre, on the other rather pale green; each matching the tone of the brick-colored dress slightly enhanced with green. One wonders the reason of this arrangement. We understand that there is a perspective effect here. But this research does not explain everything. Without doubt he wanted to try a marriage of colors to give the painting a sober and synthetic aspect. With this sober touch and a smooth material, he does not stray from a certain classicism here. But we are far from the Portrait of Renoir or of Frédéric Bazille at Saint-Sauveur. Here he returns to more traditional forms, causing Poulain to say that he has returned to "tones, winter atmospheres, in spite of a paste that is nevertheless more vivid, but supported by browns and blacks" [Poulain, 1932, p. 133].

Bazille uses a model that was also used by Renoir in his Diane chasseresse [National Gallery of Art, Washington].

La tireuse de cartes, Théodule Ribot, musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Colombes © Bruno Farat
La tireuse de cartes, Théodule Ribot, musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Colombes © Bruno Farat
The Fortune Teller, like the Summer Scene, prefigures Cézanne's themes. Bazille practices the same geometric forms, the same immobility, which leads Monique Bernat to write that his portraits "all contain an interior life that is not scattered in gestures or details". And it is indeed Mrs. Cézanne we are thinking of here, when she is for example represented in the same pose with a similar dress, buttoned up to the collar [Paul Cézanne, The Basel Sketchbook, The Museum of Modem Art, New York, 1988, p. 101. See also Lionello Venturi, Cézanne, son art, son œuvre, Paris, 1936, no. 572-3]. The Fortune Teller poses a dating problem. Sarraute, Marandel and Bajou dated it to 1867, Poulain and Daulte to 1868-1869. The 2016-2017 exhibition proposing that of 1869-1870, pointing out that the painting appears in The Studio on the rue La Condamine painted in early 1870.

Besides its purely pictorial aspect, the interest of this work lies in the mystery of its meaning. Bazille did not say a word about his painting in his correspondence. One may finally wonder if Bazille intended to give meaning to the cards that appear in the painting.