Gustave Moreau, ‘Marie-Gabrielle Krauss as Sappho’, Christie's Old Masters

On 2 April 1884, the Paris Opéra produced an expanded version of Charles Gounod's Sapho which had premiered in 1851. According to letters dated from 3 August to 31 October 1883 at the Musée Gustave Moreau, Moreau's costume designs for Sapho did not result from a commission but rather a request for advice from Régnier, administrator of the Paris Opera. During the summer of 1883 Moreau submitted an initial proposal of drawings for the five main characters. His designs were considered too complicated and he followed up with a second series in the autumn. These in turn were used by the Opera costume designer Eugne Lacoste, who copied Moreau's drawings.

Pierre-Louis Matthieu lists five studies for the costume of Sappho (Gustave Moreau. Monographie et Nouveau catalogue de l'oeuvre dessiné, Paris, 1998, nos. 329-33). The present drawing is a tracing of a watercolor now in a private collection (Matthieu, op. cit., no. 329). The title-role in the opera was played by the Austrian mezzo-soprano Marie-Gabrielle Krauss (1842-1906) who may have sat for Moreau.

Signature: Signed with initials '-GM-' and inscribed 'SAPHO/ Mlle Krauss'

With Charles E. Slatkin Galleries, New York.

About Gustave Moreau

A leading Symbolist, Gustave Moreau painted fantastical and mythological subject matter in a painterly and sensuous style. Moreau was influenced by the Romanticism of Eugène Delacroix and Théodore Chassériau (his teacher), but focused on the femme-fatales and virgins often associated with Symbolist painting. Salome Dancing Before Herod (1876), one of Moreau’s most famous works, took the artist seven years to paint, as he slowly built up the painting’s rich, encrusted surface. Moreau was also known for his semi-abstract watercolors, and was a teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts, where his pupils included Albert Marquet, Henri Matisse, and Georges Rouault. André Breton regarded Moreau as an important precursor to Surrealism.

French, 1826-1898, Paris, France, based in Paris, France

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