GALLERIES/Daxer & Marschall
PROVENANCE:B. Creasy, The Mayfair Art Gallery, London;
London, Christie's, auction sale, 14 April 1944, lot 65, sold for 20 guineas to a Mr. Einstein;
Galerie Neumeister & Gräf, Munich 1956;
Georg Schäfer private collection, Schweinfurt, inv. 43250897;
Munich, Auktionshaus Neumeister, auction sale, paintings from the Georg Schäfer collection, 25 February 2005, lot 680;
German private collection.
Otto Scholderer to Henri Fantin-Latour, letters dated 18 April 1881 and 18 July 1881;
Johnson and A. Greutzner, The Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, V, Suffolk 1976, p. 449;
Jutta Bagdahn, Otto Franz Scholderer, Monographie und Werkverzeichnis, Freiburg 2002, no. 196;
Manfred Großkinsky and Birgit Sander (eds.), Otto Scholderer 1834-1902: die neue Wirklichkeit des Malerischen: zum 100. Todestag, exhib. cat., Haus Giersch, Frankfurt am Main 2002, p. 71, no. 71.
Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English Masters, London, British Institution, 1850 and 1851 (lent by Lord Overstone);
Exhibition of the works of the Old Masters, associated with works of Deceased Masters of the British School, London, Royal Academy of Arts, May-June 1871;
Loan exhibition of pictures by Jan Steen, London, Dowdeswell Galleries, 1909, no.15 (lent by Lady Wantage, London);
Leiden, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, 16 June-31 August 1926, no. 50 (lent by the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, London);
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, date unknown (lent by Mr. Schuddebeurs, Amsterdam, according to a label on the stretcher).
FURTHER INFORMATION:In the early eighteenth century, masquerades and fancy-dress balls grew popular all over Europe. Unlike the majority of painters who depicted the social event itself, for example, Edouard Manet - his famous version is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington - Otto Scholderer chose to depict a group of eleven women preparing for the revelries. The costumes they wear are from many different cultures and historical periods. He conjures up an impressive large-scale line-up of ball-goers in the guise of figures from the world of literature and the visual arts, from the present day and the past, the real world and the theatre. As Jutta Bagdahn observes: The painting is very much a homage to female models, in a broader sense, to art itself. But in the course of the painting's conception, Scholderer also drew on contemporary models and earlier pictorial traditions. The viewer finds himself reminded of Liotard's Belle Chocolatière, Manet's barmaid Suzon and especially, Gainsborough's Blue Boy. National or ethnic costume was another popular choice for masquerades and Japanese-style costume in particular.
Scholderer executed his first version of the motif, titled Preparing for a Fancy-Dress Ball, between October 1879 and February 1880. When the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1880 it was greeted with a barrage of criticism. In a letter to Henri Fantin-Latour dated 8 June 1880 Scholderer noted that he had grown displeased with the painting since there are many bad things about it, I hope to be able to improve them when the work returns from the Academy (...).
Preparing for a Fancy-Dress Ball was sold to a buyer from Manchester in the autumn of 1880. Despite the harsh critiques, an anonymous client took a liking to the subject and commissioned Scholderer to produce a second version - with the proviso that it would be exhibited at the Royal Academy. Scholderer refused but returned to the subject of his own accord in spring 1881. In a letter to his friend Fantin-Latour dated 18 April 1881 he elaborated on this: At the moment I am working on a kind of reproduction of my painting of last year, the preparations for a fancy-dress ball. I am most content to be doing it again, I think it will be better; I believe that last year that painting taught me a great deal.
The present painting shows that Scholderer made determined efforts to respond to the criticism directed against his first version of the motif. The women's bearing, the interaction between them and the way some of them seem to bask confidently in the viewer's gaze now have a graceful elegance. Some of the models have been replaced. Some of the preparatory studies for this second version are now held in the Graphische Sammlung des Städelschen Kunstinstituts in Frankfurt.
Scholderer trained at the Städelsche Kunstakademie in Frankfurt in the 1850s. Early in his career, he met Gustave Courbet. He travelled to Paris for the first time in 1857, visiting his friend Victor Müller who was a student of Thomas Couture. Scholderer joined Courbet's circle of friends. It was here, in 1858, that he was to embark on a lifelong friendship with Henri Fantin-Latour. The correspondence between them is largely preserved. It offers important insights into Scholderer's biography. Müller had settled in Munich and was briefly joined there by Scholderer. This brought Scholderer into contact with Wilhelm Leibl. In 1871, Scholderer moved to London, where he specialized in genre painting and portraiture. His style of life changed dramatically - he now lived as a recluse with little contact to English painters, whereas in Paris he had been an active member of the artistic community counting many of the leading artists of his time as friends. His work was noticed by London critics well into the 1880s, but he failed to achieve a major breakthrough in his lifetime. Why he never returned to his beloved Paris remains unexplained. The Masqueraders - Before the Ball ranks among Otto Scholderer's masterpieces.