Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)
Oil on canvas
42 1/8 x 27 5/8 in. (107 x 70.2 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 809
Promayet, a violinist who was a childhood friend and schoolmate of Courbet's, appears in several paintings by the artist. Here, he holds his instrument while adopting a soulful expression befitting a struggling musician. This picture served as the model for Promayet's likeness in The Painter’s Studio of 1855 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Courbet borrowed it back from the sitter, as he did many other portraits used for the life-size canvas.
Inscription: Inscribed (lower right): G. Courbet
the sitter, Paris (in 1855); Gustave Courbet (in 1873); Romanoff family, St. Petersburg (by 1906); Nicolai Dmitrivitch Romanoff, St. Petersburg (by 1912–13; sold by June 6, 1913 to Rosenberg); [Paul Rosenberg, Paris, 1913–14; sold in May 1914 to Havemeyer]; Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1914–d. 1929; Cat., 1931, pp. 96–97, ill.)
Paris. Pavillon du Réalisme. "Exhibition et vente de 40 tableaux et 4 dessins de l'oeuvre de M. Gustave Courbet," 1855, no. 6 (as "Portrait de mon ami A. P., artiste musicien," 1847, probably this picture).
Paris. Salon. June 15–?, 1857, no. 625 (as "Portrait de M. A. P. . . ," possibly this picture).
Paris. Rond-Point du Pont de l'Alma. "Exposition des œuvres de M. G. Courbet," April 30–November 1867, no. 74 (as "M. Alphonse Promayet, artiste musicien, [Paris, 1851]," possibly this picture).
St. Petersburg. Institut Français. "Exposition centennale de l'art français," January 28–?, 1912, no. 343 (as "Portrait de M. Alphonse Promayet," lent by Nicolai Dmitrivitch Romanoff).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of the Works of Gustave Courbet," April 7–May 18, 1919, no. 5 (as "Portrait of Alphonse Promayet," lent anonymously).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 22 (as "Alphonse Promayet")[2nd ed., 1958, no. 79].
Venice. Biennale. "XXVII Biennale di Venezia: J. D. Gustave Courbet," June 19–October 17, 1954, no. 10 (as "Ritratto di Alphonse Promayet").
Musée de Lyon. "Courbet," November 1–December 31, 1954, no. 12 (as "Portrait d'Alphonse Promayet").
Paris. Petit Palais. "G. Courbet," January 12–February 28, 1955, no. 19.
Akron, Ohio. Akron Art Institute. "Picture of the Month," March 29–May 8, 1955, no catalogue.
Pensacola, Fla. Pensacola Art Center. "Opening exhibition," October 26–November 30, 1955, no catalogue.
Jacksonville, Fla. Jacksonville Art Museum. December 15, 1955–January 30, 1956, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Van Gogh as Critic and Self-Critic," October 30, 1973–January 6, 1974, no. 40.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A124.
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme...," October 20, 1997–January 18, 1998, no. 16 (as "Portrait de A. P. [Alphonse Promayet, 1822–1872]").
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Gustave Courbet," October 13, 2007–January 28, 2008, no. 31.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gustave Courbet," February 27–May 18, 2008, no. 31.
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. "Courbet: A Dream of Modern Art," October 15, 2010–January 30, 2011, no. 33 (as "Portrait of the Musician Alphonse Promayet [Portrait d'Alphonse Promayet]").
Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Realismo(s). La huella de Courbet," April 7–July 24, 2011, no. 25.
Gustave Courbet. Letter to Champfleury. [November–December 1854] [published in Ref. Huyghe et al. 1944, p. 23 and in English transl. in Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, ed., "Letters of Gustave Courbet," Chicago, 1992, no. 54-8, p. 132], describes "The Painter's Studio" (1855; Musée d'Orsay, Paris; F165), noting that he has included "Promayet, avec son violon sous le bras comme il est sur le portrait qu'il m'envoie" [this picture].
Zacharie Astruc. Les 14 Stations du Salon. Paris, 1859, p. 389, describes seeing this painting of "un homme à grande barbe fauve tenant un violon à la main" in Courbet's studio.
Gustave Courbet. Letter to Jules Castagnary. February 9, 1873 [English transl. published in Chu, ed., "Letters of Gustave Courbet," 1992, no. 73-11, p. 481], lists it among paintings for possible inclusion in the Artistic Circle exhibition, Vienna.
Gustave Courbet. Letter to Mme Reverdy. 1873 [excerpt published in Ref. Riat 1906, p. 342], in response to his sister's attempt to sell this painting, calls it perhaps the best he has made.
Gustave Courbet. Letter to Étienne Baudry. June 2, 1875 [English transl. published in Chu, ed., "Letters of Gustave Courbet," 1992, no. 75-11, p. 551], lists it among works he recalls being stored at the Durand-Ruel gallery.
Georges Riat. Gustave Courbet peintre. Paris, 1906, pp. 46, 133, 149, 253, 342, mentions a portrait of Promayet in exhibitions of 1855, 1857, and 1867; states that Courbet's sister, Mme Reverdy, was negotiating the sale of this work to the "oncle de M. Demitri" in 1873, but that Courbet was undecided about the sale price.
François Monod. "L'Exposition centennale de l'art français à Saint-Pétersbourg (2e et dernier article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 4th ser., 7 (April 1912), p. 313 n. 1.
V. G. Karatyghin. "Scriabin and the Young Composers of Moscow." Apollon 3, part 1, no. 5 (1912), ill. opp. p. 31, as in the N. Romanoff collection.
René Jean. L'Art français a Saint-Pétersbourg: Exposition centennale. Exh. cat.Paris, 1912, p. 71.
Loan Exhibition of the Works of Gustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1919, p. 4, no. 5, erroneously lists this picture as being in Courbet's 1882 solo exhibition at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris [no. 159 in the 1882 catalogue is "Portrait de M. Alphonse Promayet, artiste musicien," 79 x 62 cm., lent by M. Granet].
Charles Léger. "Courbet, peintre de la vie provinciale au XIXe siècle." Franche-Comté, Monts-Jura et Haute-Alsace 9 (December 1927), ill. p. 248.
Charles Léger. Courbet. Paris, 1929, pp. 52–53, 70, 127.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 97–98, ill., calls it "Portrait of Alphonse Promayet" and dates it 1851.
René Huyghe, Germain Bazin, and Hélène Jean [sic] Adhémar. Courbet, L'atelier du peintre: Allégorie réelle, 1855. [Paris], 1944, pp. 16, 23, fig. 26, date it 1851; state that it was included in exhibitions in 1855, 1867, and 1882; mention a smaller, bust-length portrait of Promayet owned by André Derain.
Gerstle Mack. Gustave Courbet. New York, 1951, pp. 66, 143, pl. 16, calls it the second painted portrait of Promayet, dating it about 1851.
Adriana Albini. Courbet alla XXVII Biennale di Venezia. Exh. cat., Biennale. Venice, 1954, unpaginated, ill., dates it 1851; repeats incorrectly that it was exhibited in 1882 [see Ref. New York 1919].
S. Kahn and M. Ecalle. G. Courbet. Exh. cat., Petit Palais. Paris, 1955, unpaginated, no. 19, pl. 15, erroneously list Granet in the provenance [see Ref. Delestre 1962]; mention a smaller replica in the collection of Derain as perhaps the one exhibited in 1882.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 199, 201, refers to this painting as the "Violinist," calling it "one of Courbet's fine portraits and one which reveals his analogy to Rembrandt".
Gaston Delestre. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. March 10, 1962, dates it 1851; describes a photograph of Courbet's 1882 exhibition which confirms that the exhibited picture of Promayet was a smaller, bust-length portrait, without the violin; concludes that this smaller portrait was also the one exhibited in 1855 and 1867, and that it was owned by Granet and Derain.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 110–11, ill., state that Courbet made two or three other portraits of Promayet: a drawing (1847; Musée d'Orsay, Paris), and two bust-length paintings, one belonging to Granet and another to Derain, which may in fact be the Granet version cut down; surmise that Courbet either kept the MMA version after borrowing it from Promayet for "The Painter's Studio" or received it after Promayet's 1872 death; note that the right side of the canvas was cut away and a new piece sewn on, possibly by Courbet; assert that sometime between Exh. New York 1919 and the MMA acquisition in 1929, the signature "must have been strengthened and the scroll repainted to its present form".
Bruce K. MacDonald. "The Quarry by Gustave Courbet." Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 67, no. 348 (1969), p. 68 n. 17.
Robert Fernier. La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. Vol. 1, Peintures, 1819–1865. Lausanne, 1977, pp. 80–81, no. 128, ill., calls it "Portrait de A. P. (Alphonse Promayet)"; dates it 1851.
Hélène Toussaint inGustave Courbet, 1819–1877. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Paris. London, 1978, pp. 232, 257, 276 ill. (detail) [French ed., 1977, pp. 226, 249, 269, ill. (detail)], dates it both 1847(?) and about 1850.
Pierre Courthion. L'opera completa di Courbet. Milan, 1985, p. 79, no. 122, ill.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 219, 258, notes that Mrs. Havemeyer bought this picture from Rosenberg in 1914.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 199, 201, 331 n. 285.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 266, 284–85.
Gary Tinterow inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 23, colorpl. 23.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 312–13, no. A124, ill.
Valérie Bajou. Courbet. Paris, 2003, pp. 63–64, 404 n. 8, ill. (color), tentatively dates it 1851.
Kathryn Calley Galitz inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, pp. 142–43, no. 31, ill. (color) [French ed., Paris, 2007].
Klaus Herding and Stephanie Marchal inCourbet: A Dream of Modern Art. Ed. Klaus Herding and Max Hollein. Exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Ostfildern, 2010, pp. 160–61, no. 33, ill. (color).
Alphonse Promayet was a private teacher for a branch of the Romanoff family in Russia, but later returned to France.
There are two or three other portraits of Promayet by Courbet, one of them a drawing (F20 under Drawings; Paris, Musée du Louvre). Another was listed in the Courbet exhibition of 1882 (École des Beaux-Arts, May 1882, no. 159) as belonging to Granet, 79 x 62 cm, without a signature or date. Huyghe, Bazin, and Adhémar [see Ref. 1944] also mention a smaller bust-length portrait then belonging to André Derain, which might be the Granet version cut down. No portrait of Promayet other than the drawing and the MMA painting is catalogued by Fernier or currently known. Based on this conflicting and incomplete information, identification of the paintings in the three exhibitions of 1855, 1857, and 1867 cannot be determined.
Alphonse Promayet is also depicted in Courbet's "After Dinner at Ornans" (F92; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille), "Burial at Ornans" (F91; Musée d'Orsay, Paris), and "The Artist's Studio" (F165; Musée d'Orsay, Paris).