In this satirical work, first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1839, elegantly dressed "experts" examine a landscape in the style of the seventeenth-century painter Nicolas Poussin. Decamps's generation, including such figures as Théodore Rousseau and Jules Dupré, sought to challenge the prevailing view that the art of the past should dictate contemporary taste.
Scenes in which monkeys are engaged in human activities—singeries in French—are part of a tradition that can be traced to Antiquity.
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed: (left) DECAMPS.1837
Lord Henry Seymour, Paris (1837–d. 1859; bought from the artist; bequeathed to Viterne); Colonel de Viterne, Paris (1859–at least 1860); John Siltzer, London (by 1869–at least 1886[?]); E. Secrétan, Paris (by 1887–89; his sale, Galerie Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris, July 1, 1889, no. 11, as "Les Singes experts," for Fr 70,000, to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1889; stock no. 2386; sold on August 1 to Havemeyer]; Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1889–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, p. 105, as "The Critics")
Paris. Salon. March 1–?, 1839, no. 504 (as "Les experts").
Paris. Palais des Beaux-Arts. "Exposition universelle de 1855," May 15–?, 1855, no. 2892 (as "Les experts," lent by Lord Henry Seymour).
Paris. 26, Boulevard des Italiens [Francis Petit]. "Tableaux tirés de collections d'amateurs . . .," 1860, no. 141 (as "Les Singes experts," lent by M. le colonel de Viterne).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 11–November 2, 1930, no. 43 (as "The Critics") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 99].
New York. Knoedler. "An Exhibition of Paintings and Prints of Every Description, on the Occasion of Knoedler, One Hundred Years, 1846–1946," April 1–27, 1946, no. 31 (as "Art Critics").
Lexington, Va. Washington and Lee University. "Humor in Painting," November 13–December 10, 1955, no catalogue.
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "The Artist and the Animal," May 7–24, 1968, no. 79.
Williamstown, Mass. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. "In the Studio: The Making of Art in Nineteenth-Century France," September 12–October 25, 1981, no. 9.
Williamstown, Mass. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. "Alexandre Gabriel Decamps, 1803–1860," March 2–April 29, 1984, no. 7.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A183.
Amsterdam. Van Gogh Museum. "Fierce Friends: Artists and Animals, 1750–1900," October 5, 2005–February 5, 2006, unnumbered cat. (p. 137).
Pittsburgh. Carnegie Museum of Art. "Fierce Friends: Artists and Animals, 1750–1900," March 25–August 28, 2006, unnumbered cat. (p. 137).
"Salon de 1839 – Peinture: Les Experts, par Decamps." Le Magasin pittoresque 7 (May 1839), pp. 145–46, ill. (engraving), discusses its popularity at the Salon and speculates whether the monkeys represent Salon jurors, ignorant art amateurs, or professional "commissaires-experts".
Amans de Ch[avagneux]... et A... Examen du Salon de 1839, de l'état actuel de l'art en France, et des moyens d'améliorer le sort des artistes. Paris, 1839, pp. 30–31.
Alex[andre]. Barbier. Salon de 1839. Paris, 1839, p. 138.
J[ules]. Janin. "Salon de 1839 (deuxième article)." L'Artiste, 2nd ser., 2 (1839), pp. 232–33, ill. opp. p. 356 (lithograph by Collignon), calls it an "adorable plaisanterie," adding that "rien n'est plus charmant, plus vrai et plus naif".
Laurent-Jan. Le Salon de 1839. Paris, 1839, pp. 7–8, ill. opp. p. 5 (lithograph, in reverse, by Challamel Del.).
"Collection de Lord Seymour." Beaux-arts 2 (1844), p. 221, describes the monkeys before a Poussin landscape.
Charles Perrier. "Exposition universelle des beaux-arts." L'Artiste, 5th ser., 15 (June 17, 1855), p. 89, calls it "Singes" and praises its comic mockery.
Théophile Gautier. Les Beaux-arts en Europe. Vol. 1, 1855, pp. 215–16, as "Singes amateurs".
Auguste de Belloy. "Beaux-Arts. Exposition nationale." L'Assemblée nationale (September 7, 1855) [excerpt reprinted in Ref. Chaumelin 1861, pp. 29–30], interprets it as a bitter satire of the salon jury; describes the monkeys' resemblance to humans as hideous, adding "le laid n'est pas seulement laid, il est dangereux et malsain".
Théophile Silvestre. Histoire des artistes vivants: Français et étrangers. Paris, 1856, pp. 176, 185–86.
Paul d'Ivoi. "La Vente des collections de Lord Seymour." Figaro (January 15, 1860), p. 5, notes that this painting will not be included in the sale of Seymour's collection because it is a bequest.
Théophile Gautier. "Exposition de tableaux modernes, tirés de collections d'amateurs—1er article." Gazette des beaux-arts 5 (February 15, 1860), pp. 199–200, observes that "jamais la caricature humaine n'a été faite, à travers le masque simiesque, d'une façon plus ironique, plus cruelle et plus amusante".
Marius Chaumelin. Decamps: Sa vie, son œuvre. Marseilles, 1861, pp. 5, 7, 29–33, 43–44, remarks that although Decamps painted this picture as vengeance for his consecutive rejections by the Salon jury, its intent is purely comic; notes that it was not included in Lord Seymour's sale and conjectures that it was purchased by the Duke of Cumberland, who had unsuccessfully offered Fr 20,000 for it several years ago [see Ref. Robert and Tupinier-Barrillon 1999].
"Gravures du numéro: Les Experts." L'Artiste, n.s., 12 (1861), p. 24, ill. between pp. 24 and 25 (engraving by G. Greux).
Philippe Burty. Notes sur Decamps. 1861 [excerpt published in Ref. Mosby 1977, vol. 2, p. 492], recounts Decamps's statement before this picture at Exh. Paris 1860: "'Quelle bétise faites dans la jeunesse. Nous nous amusions à des tours de force. On se frottât les mains quand on avait peint un tableau avec du bitume ou de l'outremer! Il n'est que longer devient vieux qu'on traite l'art sérieusement.'".
Ernest Chesneau. La Peinture française au XIXe siècle: Les Chefs d'école. Paris, 1862, p. 225.
Paul Mantz. "Artistes contemporain. — Decamps." Gazette des beaux-arts 12 (February 1862), pp. 114–16, remarks that the landscape on the easel in this picture resembles a Poussin as painted by Decamps.
Ad[olphe]. Moreau. Decamps et son œuvre. Paris, 1869, pp. 70, 156, catalogues an etching by G. Greux (p. 69, no. 20) and a lithograph by Challamel (p. 92, no. 17) after this painting; locates it in the collection of M. Siltzer.
Eugène de Mirecourt. Delaroche, Decamps. Paris, 1871, p. 61.
Emile Im-Thurn. "Scheffer & Decamps." Mémoires de l'académie du gard: Année 1875, 6ème sér., 5 (1876), p. 486.
Charles Clément. Decamps. Paris, , pp. 24, 78, ill. p. 27 (lithograph by Challamel), calls it "Singes experts"; erroneously states that it was shown at the Salon of 1844, but lists it in the Salon of 1839 elsewhere; locates it in the collection of John Siltzer, London.
John C. van Dyke. "Two Private Collections in Paris." Art Review 2 (December 1887), p. 70, as "The Monkey Connoisseurs" in the Secrétan collection; considers it a "degradation of a noble art".
Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Notebook." Art Amateur 21 (September 1889), p. 66, notes that it was purchased at the Secrétan sale by Durand-Ruel, whose father had previously owned it for Fr 2,500 [correspondence with Durand-Ruel indicates that this picture was not owned by Durand-Ruel prior to the Secrétan sale].
D. C. T. "The Secrétan Collection." Art Journal, n.s., (November 1889), p. 310, notes that it sold for £2,800 at the Secrétan sale.
"The Fine Arts: Sale of the Secretan Collection." Critic 12 (July 6, 1889), p. 11, calls it "Monkeys as Art Experts" and notes that it sold for $14,000 at the Secrétan sale.
Léon Rosenthal. "La Peinture romantique sous la Monarchie de Juillet (deuxième article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 4th ser., 7 (March 1912), pp. 225–26.
Henry Roujon, ed. Decamps. Paris, , pp. 46, 55.
Léon Rosenthal. Du Romantisme au réalisme: essai sur l'évolution de la peinture en France de 1830 à 1848. Paris, 1914, pp. 138–39.
Pierre du Colombier. Decamps. Paris, 1928, p. 14, pl. 30.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, p. 105, as "The Critics".
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. 31–32, ill., observe that the landscape within this picture is in the style of Poussin or Gaspard Dughet.
Claus Virch. The Artist and the Animal. Exh. cat., M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. [New York], 1968, p. 60, no. 79, ill.
Dewey F. Mosby. Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, 1803–1860. PhD diss., Harvard University. New York, 1977, vol. 1, pp. 145–46, 368, 372–73; vol. 2, pp. 381, 491–92, no. 201, pl. 44B, dates it about 1836–37 in the caption and 1837 in the text; cautions against interpreting this picture as a criticism of the Salon jurors, citing evidence that Decamps did not often submit his work; states that Lord Seymour bought it from Decamps in 1837.
David B. Cass. In the Studio: The Making of Art in Nineteenth-Century France. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 1981, pp. 14–15, 46, no. 9, ill., comments that this picture reflects the increasing role of the professional art appraiser for nineteenth-century collectors; asserts that Decamps did not intend his "singeries" as biting satires, but meant for pictures such as ours to provoke "surprised amusement at seeing familiar tasks performed by creatures oddly capable of mimicking human behavior".
Frances Weitzenhoffer. "The Creation of the Havemeyer Collection, 1875–1900." PhD diss., City University of New York, 1982, p. 108, fig. 17, states that Durand-Ruel purchased it for Havemeyer at the Secrétan sale.
David B. Cass in David B. Cass and Michael M. Floss. Alexandre Gabriel Decamps, 1803–1860. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 1984, pp. 39–40, 66, no. 7, ill. p. 21.
Patricia Mainardi. "The Political Origins of Modernism." Art Journal 45 (Spring 1985), p. 14, fig. 5, remarks that this painting was criticized as reflecting bourgeois values when it was shown at the 1855 Exposition Universelle.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, p. 58.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 208–9, 285.
Gary Tinterow inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 10, colorpl. 8.
Ronald de Leeuw. Philippe Rousseau, 1816–1887. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, 1993, p. 24, fig. 19.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 323, no. A183, ill.
Hervé Robert and Béatrice Tupinier-Barrillon. "Une Grande collection au temps du Romantisme: La Galerie Seymour." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 133 (January 1999), pp. 31–32, 42–43, 55 n. 34, no. 45, ill. on cover (color) and fig. 13, state that it was no. 906, valued at Fr 5,000, in the posthumous inventory of Lord Seymour's collection; note that Seymour bequeathed this picture to Colonel Viterne.
Patrick Noon in Patrick Noon. Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2003, p. 176, fig. 51 (color).
Louise Lippincott and Andreas Blühm. Fierce Friends: Artists and Animals, 1750–1900. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. London, 2005, p. 136, ill. pp. 11, 137 (color, detail and overall), describe the landscape painting within this picture as in the style of Géricault or Decamps himself.
Michèle Hannoosh, ed. Eugène Delacroix: Journal. Paris, 2009, vol. 2, p. 1333 n. 157, notes that this painting was included in Paris 1860, and that upon visiting the exhibition on or by March 14, Delacroix reflected "Pas un Decamps ne m'a fait plaisir".
The inscriptions on this canvas read: (on sticker applied to landscape) 107; (bottom center, on book) Expertise[s] / 10%[?] / Nous soussign[és] / Estimateurs / Appréciateurs / Experts / . . . (Appraisal[s] / 10%[?] / We the undersigned / Assessors / Appraisers / Connoisseurs / . . . ).
This painting was reproduced in an etching by G. Greux, a lithograph by Challamel, and a lithograph by Collignon (see Janin 1839 and Moreau 1869).
Artist: Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (French, Paris 1803–1860 Fontainebleau)Date: 1820–60Medium: Black and white chalk, charcoal, traces of graphite on light brown paper; some stumpingAccession: 1991.465On view in:Not on view