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    Description

    The Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection

    EDWARD CHALMERS LEAVITT (American, 1842-1904)

    Still Life with Peaches and Grapes in a Silver Dish, 1881
    Oil on canvas
    24 x 36 inches (61.0 x 91.4 cm)
    Signed and dated lower left: E C Leavitt 1881

    PROVENANCE:
    Charles G. Calder, Butler Exchange, Providence, Rhode Island (old label verso);
    Purchased from David Findlay Gallery, New York, January 20, 1989 (label verso).

    EXHIBITED:
    "Art for your Collection," Providence, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, November 1 - December 11, 1988.

    This still life is a stunning example of the decorative style of the American Aesthetic Movement, and one of the finest works by Edward Chalmers Leavitt, the leading artist in a group of late 19th-century still-life painters from Providence, Rhode Island. Leavitt and his circle were, as William Gerdts and Russell Burke described them in American Still Life Painting, "Well known for the realistic and very tangible quality" of their work," with its emphasis on costly bronze, bric-a-brac, and silver--and for its extremely careful finish. Leavitt's finest works are those of the 1880s and very early 1890s . . . extremely sharply-focused and precisely drawn." The airless space Leavitt achieves in this large and ambitious composition, with its many textures meticulously rendered, has a hypnotic degree of clarity and not a wisp of atmospheric ambiguity. Paul Buchanan admired and respected the tremendous discipline this degree of naturalism demanded of a painter. In fact, he quite likely regarded it as a visual equivalent to the clarity, brevity and accuracy he strove for himself when writing his judicial opinions. He displayed Leavitt's still life prominently over the sofa in his formal living room in an opulent gilt plaster frame ornamented with fruit motifs in high relief. It was a highly legible image from anywhere within the large room, and even the main hall beyond.

    The decorative objects Leavitt included in this still life are both domestic and foreign in origin, and typify the luxurious decor of the upper middle class following America's Centennial: embossed Lincrusta wallpaper, yellow silk damask fabric, a Bohemian glass goblet, a Japanese cloisonné vase, and a classical revival silver dish. The latter was produced by Gorham in 1881, making it exactly contemporary with Leavitt's painting (see C.H. Carpenter, Jr., Gorham Silver 1831-1981, New York, 1982, p. 84). The colors featured in this composition--turquoise, yellow, grape, brown and plum--were immensely popular in American interior design and women's clothing during the Aesthetic Movement.

    Many thanks to Tim Rigdon for identifying the silver dish as a Gorham production.





    Condition Report*: Relined on modern stretcher. Paint surface intact, light frame abrasion on perimeter.  Visible under UV examination is a small spot of restoration just above the yellow cloth where it meets the William Morris style wallpaper approximately two inches from the left edge of the painting. There is a one-inch long inpaint directly above the covered glass.  There is an area of scattered inpaint running vertically along the far right edge of the composition, located in the shadow cast by the cloisonned vase.  Interestingly, UV examination revealed that the two peaches situated in front of the Gorham silver vessel containing the grapes were the artist's last additions to the composition; they are painted on top of the silver vessel.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    June, 2009
    10th-11th Wednesday-Thursday
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