Paris - The Flower Market on the Île de la Cité
signed 'Louis de Schryver' (lower left)
oil on canvas
3618 x 2812 in. (91.8 x 72.4 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 6 May 1981, lot 138.
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Lot Essay

Louis Marie de Schryver was born in Paris on October 12, 1862. The son of a well-respected journalist, he was raised in the privileged upper class of French society. De Schryver’s artistic talent was apparent at a young age, and he exhibited his first entry at the Paris Salon at the age of only thirteen. Early in the artist’s career, as Haussmannisation transformed the city with its wide boulevards and parks, paintings of modern life in Belle Époque Paris became an increasingly popular subject for artists, and de Schryver would become one of the foremost proponents of such subject matter, alongside artists like Jean Béraud. De Schryver's oeuvre captures the grands boulevards, bustling with flower vendors, fashionably dressed women and elegant horse-drawn carriages that characterized life in the City of Light at the fin-de-siècle.
As a member of the upper class himself, de Schryver was no doubt innately familiar with the leisure activities of the fashionable women of Paris that would become his subject matter. Among the many changes to daily life in the waning years of the 19th century was the increasing visibility of women outside the home. Both the chic women strolling the boulevards to show off their modish new dresses and hats and the young women selling flowers and staffing the cafés and boutiques in the fashionable areas of town were taking advantage of new freedoms that would not have been available to them even a generation before. De Schryver had a particular affinity for the women who worked as Paris’s flower vendors, and they are a recurring theme within his oeuvre. Certainly the difficulty of capturing bountiful, vibrant and varied displays of flowers was a perfect vehicle through which the artist could demonstrate his prodigious talent as a painter.
Here, de Schryver takes as his subject two chic young women carefully selecting blossoms from an open-air flower market in an elegant square. The profusion of different flowers on offer is complimented by the artist’s skillful rendering of the backlit pink parasol of the woman in the background and the play of light on the layered light-yellow ribbons on the hat of the woman in the foreground, as these elements echo the shape and color palette of the flowers themselves. The horse-drawn carriage passing in the background gives the painting a charmingly anecdotal, observed quality which is a hallmark of the artist’s best work.

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