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    Description

    FRANK XAVIER LEYENDECKER (American, 1877-1924)
    Pierrot and Columbine, Vanity Fair magazine cover, June 1915
    Oil on board
    23-1/2 x 16-1/2 inches (59.7 x 41.9 cm)
    Signed lower right: Frank X. Leyendecker

    PROVENANCE:
    Louis Stern Fine Arts, West Hollywood, California.

    Joseph Christian Leyendecker's distinguished place in early twentieth-century illustration art is inextricably connected to that of his equally talented, although less well known, younger brother, Francis Xavier. Emigrating from Germany to Chicago in 1882, the Leyendecker brothers showed ready artistic promise, with Joe as the oldest, chosen by his parents to study at the Chicago Art Institute. In 1886, Joe took Frank with him to Paris, where they enrolled in the Académie Julian and developed what would become their signature academic style - crisp brushstrokes and dramatic highlights -- under the tutelage of William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Inseparable, introverted Joe and sociable Frank opened a booming commercial illustration business in Chicago upon their return home, later moved to New York in 1900, where they designed covers for popular magazines, and achieved such fame that they were able to build in 1914 an enormous French château-style mansion in New Rochelle. The Leyendeckers' neighbor and fellow illustrator Norman Rockwell described the dapper brothers: "They wore white flannels, double-breasted blue blazers with shiny brass buttons, and stiff straw hats. . . . I could see that they were both very handsome, dark complexioned with high cheekbones and straight, delicately molded noses. . . . And trim, well built, the line of their jackets falling straight from shoulder to hip" (N. Rockwell, My Adventures as an Illustrator, New York, 1960, pp. 194-5). Both Joe and Frank translated their personal refinement into their illustration aesthetic: Joe focused on themes of male heroism and athleticism, especially embodied by his iconic, well-dressed and handsome "Arrow Collar Man"; Frank, by contrast, applied his graceful lines and color sensibility to female beauties, introducing some of the earliest images of the svelte and playful flapper.

    The rapid expansion of the magazine industry in the early 1900s created the Golden Age of Illustration that bolstered the careers of the Leyendeckers, transforming them into veritable celebrities. Joe produced hundreds of narrative and patriotic covers for family publications -- an incomparable 322 for the Saturday Evening Post alone. Frank's magazine covers featured a more elegant, Art Nouveau-inspired design, as well as themes of fashion, culture, and the arts. For example, in early covers for Life, Frank combined sinuous, idealized women with patterned animals in order to underscore the exoticism of female beauty and fashion: he depicted the "The Flapper" as a giant female butterfly and "The Rivals" as a feather-clad dancer stroking a peacock. Others of his Life covers used lovely women to celebrate the performing arts: in "A Live Wire," a ballerina holding a floral Japanese umbrella teeters on a tightrope, and in "Balance of Power," a charming band majorette argues with a bear playing a drum.

    One of the magazines that frequently hired Frank for his artistic interpretation of theater, music, and dance was Vanity Fair. Launched under its new name by Condé Nast in 1914, Vanity Fair catered to the newly rich "smart set" and employed talented, witty writers such as Dorothy Parker and H.L. Mencken to critique urbane culture. For Vanity Fair, Frank notably created four colorful and dashing covers with various groupings of the theater characters Pierrot the clown; Columbine, the object of his affection; and Harlequin, his nemesis: the first cover for February 1914, showing Harlequin exuberantly dancing with Columbine against a flower-strewn sky; another for November 1914, with Harlequin kissing Columbine as a forlorn Pierrot peers from behind a stage curtain; the present lot, Pierrot and Columbine, from June 1915; and a final cover for January 1917, with a triumphant Harlequin lifting ballerina Columbine from a balcony into the air.

    The stock characters Pierrot, Columbine, and Harlequin, originating from the sixteenth-century Italian theater Commedia dell'arte, figured prominently in western literature, music, theater, and art. Pierrot, the sad and naïve buffoon pining for the love of Columbine, was recognizable by his painted white face, white pantaloons and blouse with large buttons, and white cap and ruffled collar; the clever, manipulative, and flirtatious Columbine originally wore the patched dress of a servant and later adopted a ballerina's costume; and the devilish, sophisticated paramour Harlequin sported a vibrant diamond-patterned leotard. By the early twentieth century, Pierrot stood for the alter ego of the modern artist, and he appeared widely in visual culture, for example, in posters by Jules Chéret and paintings by Georges Seurat, James Ensor, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Maxfield Parrish, and John Sloan.

    In Pierrot and Columbine, this exquisite, fresh-to-the-market illustration for the 1915 cover of Vanity Fair, Frank Leyendecker renders the traditional lovesick Pierrot, hand over his heart, who pleads with Columbine the ballerina. Columbine's coy smile and backwards glance and her coquettish flouncing en pointe show that she is toying with Pierrot; holding a candle, she appears to be his "guiding light," but she, in fact, is leaving him stranded on stage in order to seek out Harlequin. Frank's trademark rich coloration in the velvet draperies, his facile handling of the female form, his theatrical lighting, and his skilled draftsmanship in the details of the costumes make this one of his all-time finest magazine covers.





    Condition Report*: Scattered flecks of minor surface residue; under UV exam, there appears to be scattered inpainting throughout the curtains, some spots appearing to address surface scratches, some to address chips of paint loss, and several approx. 5 inches long vertical areas of possible cosmetic inpainting or overpaint in folds of curtains, the largest near the bottom left edge, with the only inpainting in figures appearing to be several pinpoints in kneeling Pierrot's black cap and a small possible scratch through Ondine's left wrist; multiple repairs slightly visible under raking light. Framed Dimensions 30 X 23 Inches
    *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
    May, 2014
    10th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
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