Christmas Night (The Blessing of the Oxen)

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
oil on canvas
Mark Descriptions
signed L.R.: P. Gauguin
Dimensions
27-15/16 x 32-1/2 in. (canvas) 38-3/8 x 43 x 2-5/16 in. (framed)
Credit line
Samuel Josefowitz Collection of the School of Pont-Aven, through the generosity of Lilly Endowment Inc., the Josefowitz Family, Mr. and Mrs. James M. Cornelius, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard J. Betley, Lori and Dan Efroymson, and other Friends of the Museum
Accession number
1998.169
Collection
Currently On View In
Jane H. Fortune Gallery -

This enigmatic view of a winter night in Brittany is a fascinating blend of the imagery Gauguin found so compelling. The steeple and cottages are based on sites in Pont-Aven, yet the women wear the dark headdresses of Le Pouldu. The oxen derive from Egyptian motifs, while the figures in the Breton nativity shrine were inspired by a Javanese frieze.

Gauguin may have begun this canvas during his last Pont-Aven visit in 1894, but it was probably finished in the South Seas, where memories of Brittany still colored his work.

Possibly from the artist to Victor Ségalen.{1} To (Ambroise Vollard [1867-1939], Paris) by 1906.{2} Probably via (Étienne Bignou [1891-1950], New York) to Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Small by 1956;{3} sold at auction at Christie's, London by Sylvia Carewe [1914-1981], Marvin Small's ex-wife in 1966;{4} purchased by Douglas Cooper [1911-1984], London.{5} probably directly from Cooper to Samuel Josefowitz by 1967;{6} acquired as a partial gift, partial purchase by the IMA in 1998 (1998.169).

{1} There is confusion over whether this painting could be the "Village sous la neige" listed in the last shipment of works sent by Gauguin from Tahiti to Vollard or the second "étude faite en Bretagne" acquired by Ségalen at the 1903 posthumous sale of Gauguin's belongings. See Georges Wildenstein, Gauguin, vol 1, Paris 1964, cat. rais. no. 519 (ill) and Jean de Rotonchamp, Paul Gauguin, 1848-1903, Paris 1925, p. 221.
{2} It was included in the 1906 Salon d'Automne exhibition, cat. no. 69, "La Bénédiction des Boeufs", as Collection Vollard. See Donald Gordon, Modern Art Exhibitions 1900-1916, vol. II, 1974, p. 172.
{3} Vollard's friend and colleague, Étienne Bignou, had opened a New York branch of the Bignou gallery in 1935. In 1936 this painting was sent to New York by Vollard for the Wildenstein & Co retrospective, Paul Gauguin, 1848-1903, March 20-April 18, 1936, cat. no.7. On this exhibition see also A.M. Frankfurter, "Gauguin: Fifty Paintings in a First American One Man Loan Exhibition," Art News, 21 March 1936, p. 6 (ill.). This painting was lent by "Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Small" to the Loan Exhibition Gauguin, Wildenstein, New York, April 5-May 5, 1956, cat. no. 42 (ill.),
{4} See Catalogue of Important Impressionist and Modern Drawings, Paintings and Sculpture, Christie, Manson and Woods, London, 2 December 1966, lot. 62 (ill.).
{5} Published auction price list indicates it was purchased by Cooper.
{6} It is listed as "M. et Mme. Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne" in the exhibition catalogue Chefs-d'ouevre des collctions suisses de Manet à Picasso, Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, 1967, cat. no. 98 (ill.).
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