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    Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919)
    Gabrielle, Jean et une petite fille, 1895
    Sanguine and pencil on tracing paper laid on paperboard
    21-1/2 x 30-3/8 inches (54.7 x 77.2 cm)
    Signed lower right: Renoir

    The artist;
    Ambroise Vollard, Paris, acquired from the above, as of April 11, 1907;
    Galerie Hopkins-Thomas, Paris;
    Hammer Galleries, New York;
    Private collection, New York, acquired from the above, 1983.

    Hammer Galleries, New York, "19th and 20th Century European and American Paintings, The Gallery Collection," June-September 1983.

    This drawing will be included in the forthcoming Renoir Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc. The lot is accompanied by a letter of inclusion from the WPI.

    The present drawing in sanguine pastel and pencil on tracing paper belongs to a cluster of works produced by Pierre-Auguste Renoir during the period 1895-96, which treats the subject of the artist's second son Jean (born September 15, 1894), and Jean's sixteen-year-old nursemaid, Gabrielle Renard (a cousin of Renoir's wife), who became one of Renoir's favorite models. In this drawing, and some of the other works belonging to this group of related drawings and paintings, Jean and Gabrielle are interacting with another child who is proffering an apple to Jean.

    This drawing relates very closely both in composition and size to two works: a highly finished pastel by Renoir (with Simon Dickinson, 20.5 x 28 in.), and to an oil painting of 1896 formerly in the Norton Simon Collection, Los Angeles (25.5 x 31 in.). Since the pastel and oil painting are virtual replications of one another, it seems likely that Renoir executed them side by side. As John House noted in his Hayward Gallery exhibition catalogue essay of 1986, the oil painting of Gabrielle, Jean et Fillette was retained by Renoir for his own collection, although rumored to have been owned at one time by Cezanne (J. House, Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, p. 265).

    The medium and support of this drawing signal its function within the group of works. It was, as John House proposed, very likely used for the composition's transfer to the canvas. Renoir would have first traced the pastel outlines on the back of the semi-transparent sheet, then placed this sheet against the surface of his new canvas. Next, he would have gone over the pastel outlines with a pencil, thereby transferring the design to the new surface. That transfer would have then become the guideline—the underdrawing as it were—for his painting.

    This type of transfer technique was used extensively during the Renaissance, notably for the transfer of full-scale drawings (or cartoons) to large wall surfaces for murals, frescos and altarpieces. This was something Renoir became aware of following his trip to Italy during the 1880s when he fell profoundly under the sway of Italian masters such as Raphael and Correggio, and familiarized himself with their studio practices.

    Many contemporaries of Renoir were fans of using the new, thin tracing paper that had become available in the 19th century, for not only transfer work but compositional sketching. Perhaps foremost among them was Edgar Degas, an extraordinary draftsman who exhibited in all but one of the Impressionist exhibitions. He quickly embraced the new tracing paper support, drawing on it with charcoal and pastel. He relished the flexibility it afforded in revising and reworking compositions, figural groups, and individual poses. Since the tracing paper tended to darken over time, Degas often laid his paper against a white Bristol board both to brighten the sheet and preserve it. Renoir, in the present work, used a backing board for similar purpose and effect.

    Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000.

    Condition Report*: Board measures 21.625 x 30.5 inches; moderate overall paper discoloration; small tears, creases, and bumps to edges of board and sheet, most notably 2 approx. 1.5 inch tears at top right edge and another at center right edge.
    Framed Dimensions 33.75 X 42.5 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.

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