The scarab's serenade signed oil on panel 29.8 x 22.9cm (11 3/4 x 9in).
PROVENANCE: Sale, Butterfields, San Francisco, 15 May 2002, lot 3116 Sale, Sotheby's London, 15 October 2002, lot 165 with Mathaf Gallery, London purchased from the above by present owner
The Dutch Frederik Kaemmerer was born in La Haye and moved to Paris at a young age. He was a pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme and had considerable success for his small scale paintings which were finely painted with intricate detail such as in the present lot. Kaemmerer was awarded a medal in 1874 and then a silver medal in 1889 at the Universal Exposition in Paris and the Legion of Honor in the same year. Most of his works often exhibited French society, prim and proper, portraying the romanticized elite in their dashing costumes. Though Kaemmerer was talented, it was believed that he sought to please the public with his paintings rather than impressing his peers or the artist selection committees in the Salon and at the yearly Expositions. As such his paintings are quite pleasing to the eye, light-hearted and playful such as in the subject of the The scarab's serenade.
Though little is known about Kaemmerer's personal life, there is no doubt that Gérôme's influence would have conjured his own in the Middle East. The young girl sits on the intricately painted harem floor watching a scarab dance atop her tambourine. She has taken a twig from the plant behind as if to tease the tiny and noble creature, smiling down at her little intruder. The artist has taken the opportunity to show his dexterity in painting different textures: marble tiles, a lavish rug, soft flowers and her draped tunic.
Kaemmerer's works can be seen around the world including institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Kroller-Muller National Museum, Netherlands; Annmary Brown Memorial, Rhode Island; Mulhouse Museum, Washington D.C., yet very few are Orientalist in theme.