Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A Renoir Duo

During the previews of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sale, it was a real pleasure to closely look at the small version of Renoir’s La Loge. Especially concerning the fact that the larger version, owned by the Courtauld Galleries, will be the central focus of an upcoming exhibition titled Looking at La Loge. The Courtauld's celebrated painting will be surrounded by works depicting theatre boxes by his contemporaries.

Unfortunately, it has not been established whether the small version will be presented. The Courtauld Institute has not succeeded in contacting the previous owner, so its appearance on the art market opened new, yet unknown doors. While the arts correspondent of the Guardian a bit too enthusiastically announced today that the small version will certainly be on display, the Courtauld Institute is currently still hoping that the new owner will lend it to the exhibition. On February 5th, the painting was sold at Sotheby’s for an unexpected 7.4 million pounds (the estimate was 3.5 m). It remains unknown which of the two versions was painted earlier, although they probably stem from the same year, 1874.

A wild guess is that the small version was painted after the larger one for promotional use. The small La Loge is painted in a less detailed manner, with thinner paint, except for the roses in the female’s hair and dress. Despite its obvious difference and whether or not it is because the large version is so well-known, in my opinion, the small version also radiates a certain sense of excellence. The significant use of black paint and the positioning of the female in relation to the male figure are similar. It can only be hoped that the photograph above is not the only opportunity for the future to see the two paintings together, because they form a unique, strong and impressive duo. Yes, this may definitely be read as an appeal to the new owner.

Nevertheless, La Loge surrounded by contemporaries will be a greatly interesting exploration through the nineteenth-century Parisian theatre world and opens to the public from February 21st until May 25th.

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