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Study for a Painting of a Costume Ball Given by the Princess of Sagan
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Study for a Painting of a Costume Ball Given by the Princess of Sagan

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description This watercolor is a study for a painting entitled "Fête chez la princess de Sagan," (1883, private collection) that was produced to commemorate a ball held in 1883 at the Sagan mansion near Les Invalides in Paris (now the Polish embassy). Therefore, the inscription on the back of the watercolor-"Study for a party at the Durazzo Palace, executed for Monsieur the Viscomte Henri Greffuhle"-is partially incorrect. Although this work was indeed in Greffuhle's collection, the nature of this image as a preparatory study causes us to question the viscount's role in its commission. It is more likely that he simply purchased the watercolor from the artist as a memento of the occasion for his wife, the Comtesse Greffuhle (Lemoisne, Paris, 1914: 416). Moreover, the statement that the ball took place at the Durazzo Palace is misleading as the party occurred at the princess's Parisian home. The confusion, however, is easily explained by the fact that for the ball the princess had the entryway and grand staircase of the Durazzo Palace in Genoa reconstructed in her own house. The level of detail and the positioning of the figures so that they directly face the viewer in "Study for a Costume Ball..." indicate the commemorative nature of the painting for which it was prepared. Lami shows the guests spilling forth from the background, down the grand staircase, and through a large arch into the immediate foreground of the image. As they proceed toward us, the revelers move out of an area of relative darkness into the brightly lit frontal plane. The lighting combined with the placement of the guests facing the viewer compels us to admire the elaborate beauty of their 16th-century costumes. Moreover, it would have allowed the original owners-the countess and the viscount-to recall the evening vividly, as the highly detailed faces of the guests transform the work into what is essentially a group portrait.
Date Description Narrative
10/16/1984Examinationexamined for loan
1/01/2002Treatmentexamined for exhibition; cleaned; repaired; re-housed; mounted
  • French Masterworks on Paper. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1992.
  • Ingres and Delacroix through Degas and Puvis de Chavannes: The Figure in French Art, 1800-1870. The Shepherd Gallery, New York. 1975.
  • The Non-Dissenters IV. The Shepherd Gallery, New York. 1968.
  • A Connoisseur's Portfolio: Nineteenth-century Drawings and Watercolors in the Walters Art Gallery. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1983.
  • Sarah Bernhardt and Her Times. Wildenstein & Company, New York. 1984.
  • French Master Drawings. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1997-1998.
  • The Essence of Line: French Drawings from Ingres to Degas. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma. 2005-2006.
Provenance Countess and Viscount Greffuhle, Paris [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Renée Fribourg; Christian Hamann; Robert Isaacson, New York; Shepherd Gallery, New York; Walters Art Museum, 1983, by purchase.
Inscriptions "E.L./1883" in red-orange watercolor, lower left
Credit Museum purchase, 1983

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watercolor with graphite underdrawing heightened with white on cream, thick, heavily textured wove paper
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
H: 21 x W: 15 in. (53.4 x 38.1 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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