La Couseuse Devant la Fenêtre

La Couseuse Devant la Fenêtre, 1910
Oil on board laid down on panel
55.5 x 74 cm
signed E. Vuillard and dated 1910 (lower right)
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired directly from the artist in 1910)
Georges Hasen, St. Petersburg (acquired in 1911)
Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 1, 1932, lot 54
Mme Stewart, Paris
Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 10, 1937, lot 64
Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, until November 1940
Looted by German troops and brought to the Jeu de Paume on 5 September 1941, Transported to Nikolsburg, Moravia, thereafter restituted to the Rosenberg heirs VKS Art, purchased at Sotheby’s New York, 7 November, 2012, lot 170
Répertoire des Biens spoliés en France pendant la Guerre 1939-1945, Berlin, 1947, vol. II, no. 3830, 31.954, p.172 Jacques Salomon, Vuillard, Paris, 1961, illustrated p. 104 Antoine Salomon & Guy Cogeval, Édouard Vuillard, The Inexhaustible Glance, Critical Catalogue of Paintings, Paris, 2003, vol. II, no. IX-31, illustrated p. 1046
St. Petersburg, Institut Français, L’Exposition centennale (peinture française 1812-1912), 1912, no. 84 Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Art français contemporain, 1938, no. 90, illustrated in the catalogue

Domestic interiors play an central part in Édouard Vuillard`s oeuvre and established his reputation as an artist. Deeply attached to his mother, with whom he shared an apartment until her death,  he portrayed her no less than five hundred times during his artistic career, mostly showing her occupied with common daily activities as sewing, cooking or reading.

In La Couseuse Devant la Fenêtre we see the artist’s mother in profile view, sitting in an armchair in front of a large window, occupied with her needlework. To the right of her stands a pair of nesting tables as well as a large wardrobe with a mirror, reflecting the opposite side of the room. A thick floral patterned rug covers the floor. Facades of houses are visible through the window.
Jacques Salomon identified the setting of this scene as the fourth floor apartment of 26 Rue de Calais, on the corner of Place Vintimille in Paris, where the artist had moved with his mother in 1907.[1]

Marie Justine Alexandrine Michaud Vuillard was a corset-maker. After her husband`s death in 1883, she had used the family home as her workshop. Her and her son’s apartment was permanently occupied with seamstresses, sewing and embroidering. Édouard would be an outsider and observer in this tightly knit world of working women. The very private character and calm mood of these domestic scenes, earned Vuillard the label intimiste.

Although very modern in their execution, Vuillard’s interieurs  – with their muted  light and the peaceful atmosphere – owe a lot to Dutch genre painting. As one of the founding member of the Nabis, Vuillard also had a vital interest in decorative patterns. In the present compositionhe combines the rich textural detail of the interior space – the carpet, his mother’s dress, the reflection of the mirror – with the soft light, falling through the window. La Couseuse Devant la Fenêtre is a deeply lyrical tribute to his mother, whom Vuillard called his muse.

The Paris gallery Bernheim-Jeune purchased the present painting directly from Vuillard in 1910. One of its pre-war owners, Georges Hasen, brought it to St. Petersburg, but returned to Paris with it before the Russian revolution.  During WW II, the work was looted by the Nazis from the Parisian art dealer Paul Rosenberg. Nazi inventories record that the work was stolen from Rosenberg’s art deposit in Libourne, near Bordeaux, and taken to the Jeu de Paume in Paris on the Sept. 5, 1941. There the painting was labelled to go to a special ERR art repository in Nikolsburg, southern Moravia. La Couseuse Devant la Fenêtre was restituted to the Rosenberg family after WW2.

[1] Jacques Salomon, Vuillard, Paris1961, p. 104