Friday, February 25, 2011

Renoir: Bal du Moulin de la Galette

Public Domain Photo: Bal du Moulin de la Galette (1876), oil on canvas painting of dimensions 131 cm x 175 cm (52 in x 69 in) currently housed at Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Bal du Moulin de la Galette (commonly referred to as ‘Le Moulin de la Galette’ or ‘Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette’) by the acclaimed French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), is considered one of the most celebrated masterpieces of Impressionism.

In this oil painting created in 1876, Renoir depicts a typical impressionist scene of a social gathering on a Sunday afternoon at Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre district of Paris, where working class people, dressed up in their best outfits, loved to celebrate the evenings by eating galettes, drinking, dancing, and meeting other Parisians. Also, Renoir recreated the late 19th century real Parisian life in Bal du Moulin de la Galette, though his style is typically Impressionist, but rich in color, form, and typical fluidity of his brushstrokes.

Bal du Moulin de la Galette came in the collection of Musée du Luxembourg in Paris in 1896, and in 1929 it was transferred to the Musée du Louvre, and in 1986 it was transferred to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, where it is still located.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir also created a SMALLER VERSION (78 cm x 114 cm) of “Bal du Moulin de la Galette” with the same title and it is in private collection. It was earlier in the collection of American millionaire and U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's, John Hay Whitney. After his death, his widow Betsey Roosevelt Whitney (an American philanthropist and the ex-wife of James Roosevelt) sold the painting for US$78,100,000 at an auction Sotheby's (New York City) to the Japanese business tycoon Ryoei Saito (Saito Ryoei) in May 1990.

In 1991 Saito created an international outcry by declaring that he wished to cremate the painting (which is the fifth most expensive painting ever sold after adjusting for dollar value as per consumer price index), with him when he would be dead, along with Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet’, which also Saito purchased for a record price of US$82.5 million.

Ryoei Saito’s desire to cremate Bal du Moulin de la Galette could not be fulfilled as his bankers, who held the painting as collateral security against his loans, sold the painting through Sotheby's to an unknown buyer, when Saito and his business empire went broke.

Now, though the painting’s ownership and location are uncertain, it is believed to be owned by a Swiss art collector.

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