09-19-2014 09-19-2014
Skinner Auctions
Skinner Auctions Boston MA
2750B Boston
September 19, 2014 4:00PMCalender

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925) Study of a Man's Head

Auction: American & European Works of Art - 2750B Location: Boston Date / Time: September 19, 2014 4:00PM


John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)

Study of a Man's Head, c. 1878
Unsigned, inscribed "182" and "4242" with red wax seal remnants on the stretcher.
Oil on canvas, 22 x 17 1/4 in. (55.9 x 43.8 cm), framed.
Condition: Lined, retouch above and below the varnish layer, surface grime.

Provenance: Auguste Alexandre Hirsch; Mme. Hirsch, 1912; M. Knoedler & Co., London, January 7, 1914 (stock no. 5782); presented by Charles S. Carstairs of Knoedler, London to Mrs. Reginald Nicholson (née Pearson), November 1915 (stock nos. WC 965 and 13621); private Rhode Island collection.

Literature: Probably the work listed in Mount 1955, p. 428 (806), dated 1880, as "Gondolier (study of a man). 17 1/4 x 22, formerly Knoedler"; 1957 ed., p. 336 (806); 1969 ed., p. 463 (806); Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond, John Singer Sargent, Figures and Landscapes, 1874-1882, Complete Paintings, Volume IV (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), p. 40, 389, no. 624.

N.B. The present work is recently rediscovered, and had been untraced since its acquisition in 1915 by Mrs. Reginald Nicholson [née Natalie Pearson] (d. 1956). Ms. Pearson was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Frederick Stark Pearson of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. (1) She married Reginald Nicholson MBE (1869-1946), manager of the London Times, on February 15, 1915. Prior to the London Times, Mr. Nicholson was a manager at the Somerville Electric Light Company (created by Natalie's father), and later became chief engineer for the Metropolitan Street Railway in New York. (2). Like Natalie's father, Mr. Nicholson was an alumnus of Tufts University, and he also owned a residence in Great Barrington.

According to the authors of the catalogue raisonné, the model appears to be the same person as depicted in several other early Sargent studies, and the present work was one of eleven acquired by Knoedler from the collection of Sargent's studio mate, Auguste Alexandre Hirsch (1833-1912). (3)
(1) Oscar McMurtrie Voorhees, ed. The Phi Beta Kappa Key, Volume 2, No. 9, October 1915, p. 448.
(2) "Natalie Pearson Engaged. American Engineer's Daughter to Wed Reginald Nicholson." New York Times, January 9, 1915, p. 11.
(3) Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond, John Singer Sargent, Figures and Landscapes, 1874-1882, Complete Paintings, Volume IV (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), p. 40.

Estimate $200,000-300,000

Numbered "4242" on a label affixed to the stretcher.

The retouch was apparently done in two campaigns. The earlier retouch just barely shows as darkened areas under UV light, and it consists of some alterations around each of the ears, as well as in the top of the hair. This retouch accounts in part for subtle differences in these areas when compared with the photograph in the catalogue raisonné, which was taken from a file photo from Knoedler & Company.

The more recent retouch is wider spread and consists of the following: two oval areas located l.c. near the bottom edge, each measuring 3/4 inch high, the first measuring 1-1/2 inches across and the second 2 inches across; a vertical line measuring 5 1/4 inches long located u.l., 2-1/2 inches down from the top and 2 inches in from the left side; two vertical lines located u.r. quadrant, one measuring 4-1/2 inches long and located 3 inches in from the side and 4 inches down from the top, the second being a broken line measuring 2-3/4 inches long and located 2 inches to the right of the sitter's cheek. Clusters of dots in the face and hair located as follows: in the chin and the shadow beneath in an area measuring about 3-1/2 x 1-1/2 inches overall; along the left side of his face and cheek in an area about 6 inches high; clusters of dots in and around his eyes; less dense dots around his mouth; scattered dots in the hair, the most pronounced area being a 2 inch arch in the center.

There is some rippling to the canvas, and extra canvas on the back of the stretcher is loose and torn in places at the stretcher edge.

The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Condition requests can be obtained via email (lot inquiry button) or by telephone to the appropriate gallery location (Boston/617.350.5400 or Marlborough/508.970.3000). Any condition statement given, as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Skinner Inc. shall have no responsibility for any error or omission.


John Singer Sargent, Reginald Nicholson, Knoedler, Auguste Alexandre Hirsch, Natalie Pearson, Richard Ormond, Elaine Kilmurray, Yale University, Yale University Press, Head, London, Charles S. Carstairs, M. Knoedler & Co., Pearson, Rhode Island, Great Barrington, Frederick Stark Pearson, manager, Massachusetts, the London Times, London Times, Somerville Electric Light Company, chief engineer, Tufts University, Like Natalie, Oscar McMurtrie Voorhees, Engineer, New York Times, Knoedler & Company