A favourite fan signed and dated 'Eugène de Blaas/1889' (lower right) oil on canvas 107 x 65 cm. (42 x 25 1/2 in.)
Property from a Private collection, UK.
Paintings by Eugène de Blaas have sustained a particular appeal to collectors throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The attraction of de Blaass street scenes with Venetian maidens and their young suitors has continued unabated into the 21st century. A Favourite Fan offers a fresh example of the subject and style which, together, have ensured the lasting appeal of the artist.
From a delicate wrought-iron balcony cascading with flowers, three young figures stand in conversation during an afternoon repose. Their bodies, draped in embroidered fabrics of contemporary Venetian fashion, stand relaxed against the side-wall and the balcony railing. The three figures form a closed circle that effectively excludes any intruder including the viewer and allows them to engage unassumingly in their flirtatious conversation. Under the tender gaze of the dark-haired companion, the young man facing her attempts to slip sweet words into the ear of the fair maiden standing beside him. Her receptiveness seems to unfold in the opening leaf of the fan she holds between her fingers. In the traditional language of the fan, an open fan held in the left hand implied the girls readiness for conversation with her suitor. The device further serves to hint at the idea of love and marriage, which is presently transforming the nature of this friendly gathering. The flirtatious play appears to meet with the approval of the dark-haired maiden, whose tilting head and leaning body suggest her overt complicity in the game.
Eugène de Blaas had always sought to stage human feeling through contemporary characters chosen from the streets, canals, fountains and balconies of Venice. Born near Rome into a family of Austrian origin, Eugène de Blaas spent most of his life in Italy, travelling throughout the country, before settling in Venice. Together with his brother Julius (b. 1845), he had received his first lessons in art from his well-known father, Karl von Blaas(1815-1894), who taught at the academies of Vienna and Venice. Eugène later enrolled at the Academy of Rome before moving to Venice, where he held a teaching position at the Accademia. It was in Venice that he was able to assess the growing demand of the art market for contemporary genre scenes with a hint of sentimentality. With a highly polished and realistic technique, Eugène de Blaas depicted the ordinary people of Venice in their most affectionate and jovial dispositions, always avoiding any visual account of the hardship and misery of daily life. In this delightful arrangement of three Venetian youths on an open balcony, Eugène de Blaas displays the full range of his artistic verve; props and characters serve each other to create a composition of the highest quality.