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    WILLIAM MERRITT CHASE (American, 1849-1916)
    Copy of Velázquez's Menippus, 1882
    Oil on canvas
    70 x 36 inches (177.8 x 91.4 cm)

    The artist;
    American Art Galleries, Chase Sale, January 7, 1896;
    Woman's Art School, Cooper Union, purchased from the above;
    Private collection, South Bend, Indiana.

    Woman's Art School, Cooper Union, New York;
    South Bend Art Center, South Bend, Indiana, circa 1950 (probably).

    R.G. Pisano, William Merritt Chase: Still Lifes, Interiors, Figures, Copies of Old Masters, and Drawings, vol. 4, New Haven, Connecticut, 2006, p. 172, no. C.24.

    Although William Merritt Chase excelled as an Impressionist landscapist in his later career, he was consistently masterful as a figure painter, utilizing a particular palette and body configuration and accompanying accessories to complement a sitter's personality. Born in Indiana, Chase studied portraiture and figure painting at the National Academy of Design in New York before enrolling in 1872 in Munich's Royal Academy, whose program would bear a strong influence on his work for the next few decades. Here, access to Old Master paintings afforded Chase the opportunity to copy figural works by Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Rembrandt van Rijn, and an especial favorite, Diego Velázquez. In teaching the Dutch and Spanish Old Masters, the Munich School also introduced Chase to the concepts of realist painting, including a dark, earth-toned palette; dramatic tonal gradations; and everyday subjects. Chase returned to New York in 1878 to teach at the Art Students League, and he opened a must-see studio on Tenth Street filled with paintings, furniture, musical instruments, weapons, and a huge collection of photographs of Old Master paintings, which continued to inspire his own compositions.

    A return trip to Europe in 1881 took Chase to Spain, where he made a pilgrimage to the Prado to study Velázquez's paintings. Chase's Menippus is an exact copy of Velázquez's painting by the same name, a portrait of the third-century B.C.E. Greek satirist, known as the "cynic philosopher." Chase deftly repeats Velázquez's earth tones, mysteriously caped and turned body, and props identifying Menippus, such as the literary texts and a Grecian urn. At this same time, Chase painted a "brother portrait" to Menippus, Aesop, a copy of Velázquez's portrait of the sixth-century B.C.E. Greek fabulist.

    In his catalogue raisonné on Chase's works, Ronald G. Pisano elaborates on Menippus:

    The work was included in an exhibition of copies of Old Master paintings held at the Art Students' League. The lower section of Menippus is visible in the upper right-hand corner of of a photograph of Chase's Tenth Street Studio (see C.21A). In 1896 the work was sold in an auction of Chase's copies of Old Masters. It was one of several copies purchased by the Woman's Art School of Cooper Union, New York, and was listed as being part of the private collection of the Woman's Art School in 1917 (Katherine Metcalf Roof, The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase [1917; reprint, New York: Hacker Art Books, 1975], 329). The paintings acquired by the Cooper Union were reunited and hung on the walls of the museum, according to an article praising the copies: "To produce a copy without servility, in the spirit of the original painting, with broad brushwork, large feeling, dash and brilliancy of color, is rare indeed, and stamps a master hardly inferior to those matchless technicians of the great age" (Sophia Antoinette Walker, "Fine Arts: The Cooper Union Museum," Independent 49, no. 2536 [July 8, 1897]: 17).1

    1 R.G. Pisano, William Merritt Chase: Still Lifes, Interiors, Figures, Copies of Old Masters, and Drawings, vol. 4, New Haven, Connecticut, 2006, p. 172.

    Condition Report*: Scattered light craquelure; re-lined canvas; otherwise in good condition; not examined under black light. Framed Dimensions 74.75 X 41 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
    May, 2012
    15th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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