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    Description

    Emile Levy (French, 1826-1890)
    Caligula se livrant a l'adoration du peuple (Caligula indulging in the worship of the people), 1877
    Oil on canvas
    49-1/2 x 39-1/2 inches (125.7 x 100.3 cm)
    Inscribed with apocryphal signature lower center: J.L Gerome

    PROVENANCE:
    American Art Association, New York City, March 19, 1912, lot 104;
    William S. Hughes, acquired from the above, price $400;
    Glen R. Alexandre (according to old label);
    John D. Wilson, Director/Lakeside Studio, Lakeside, Michigan, 1979, (as Jean-Léon Gérôme) ;
    By descent to present owner.

    EXHIBITED:
    Paris Salon, 1878;
    Palais-des-Arts, Lyon, Société des Amis-Des-Arts de Lyon, 42nd Exposition, 1879, no. 451.

    LITERATURE:
    The Athenaeum, No. 2609, "Notes from Paris", October 27, 1877, p 539.
    Livret explicatif des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, dessin, gravure, etc de la Société des Amis-des-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 1879, no. 451, p. 77.
    Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, Artists of the 19th Century and their Works, Boston and New York, 1894, Vol II, p. 65.

    Émile Lévy developed his style of French Neoclassicism at the under pupils of the preeminent exponent of the style, Jacques-Louis David. A recipient of the coveted Grand Prix de Rome in 1854, Lévy returned to Paris where he regularly exhibited portraits, genre scenes and, most notably, classicizing history paintings at the Salon where his efforts won numerous medals. The present work represented Lévy in the Paris Salon of 1878.

    Taking a passage from The Life of Caligula by the Roman historian Suetonius (c. 69 - after 122 AD) as the subject for the present picture, Lévy has depicted the arrogant tyrant elevated on a throne alongside a statue of Jupiter, in order that his subjects draw a direct correlation between him and the divine gods and worship him accordingly. A contemporary reviewer opined that, "only very delicate treatment could give the point of such a situation without degenerating into caricature. In M. Levy's hands it becomes fine comedy" (Athenaeum, 1877). It is the delicate observations of the people gathered together for the ritual that catch the eye: the huffy senators, the genuflecting citizens, the distracted children below the dais busy looking elsewhere as well as the dozing priest. Lévy stretches beyond historical reportage into the realm of genre here, providing viewers with his fantasy of everyday life in the Roman Empire.

    The present work was auctioned in 1912 in New York and the apocryphal J. L. Gerome signature was presumably added at some point after that. Works by Lévy can be found in both public and private collections; his Death of Orpheus is held at the Musée d'Orsay as well a sketch of the sleeping figure from the present picture (Figure drapée paraissant dormer, Cabinet des dessins, RF 15934).




    Condition Report*: Wax-lined canvas with BEVA lining to the reverse.
    Under UV light there is a heavy masking varnish making it difficult to read earlier restoration. There are a few small areas of more recent restoration; most significant are 1 x 1/2in area of inpaint in helmet on ledge on right, 1/4 x 1 1/2in line of inpaint below brass eagle of the standard and a 1 1/2 x x 1 1/2inch area in dress of woman lower left. There is a 1/2 x 1in abrasion in center pilaster.
    Framed Dimensions 56.75 X 45.75 X 4.5 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.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2019
    7th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,912

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