1869-1937 | French
Studio stamped (en verso)
Oil on canvas
Mystical and mysterious, a mythological Ondine rests beside an ethereal forest pond in this majestic, original oil on canvas by French Symbolist Pierre-Amédée Marcel-Béronneau. A student of the famed Gustave Moreau, Béronneau painted some of the most ornate scenes ever envisioned which focused upon entrancing figures of classical mythology.
Ondine, or Undine, is a female elemental being of ancient origin that is used to describe nymphs, mermaids, naiades and the like. In lore, the beings reside near pools, ponds and waterfalls and are known for their captivating singing voices that are said to have a hypnotic effect on men. These immortal figures, though they may resemble women lack one of the most important human characteristics – a soul. Here, in true Symbolist fashion, Béronneau creates a breathtakingly vivid dream world in which this Ondine is prominent. Her lack of color, as compared to her surroundings, seems to reflect the absence of this most essential of mortal traits. Though graceful and unquestionably beautiful, without a soul the Ondine is unable to truly experience an enriched and fulfilled life.
Born to a locksmith and a housewife in Bordeaux, Béronneau received his initial training at the Municipal School of Fine Arts in his hometown and later Paris’ Decorative Arts School. In 1892, he enrolled into the Academie des Beaux-Arts where he entered the studio of Gustave Moreau. Béronneau quickly became one of the master’s best pupils. In a letter of recommendation to the Mayor of Bordeaux, Moreau wrote: “Mr. Béronneau, my student, is a wonderful worker, very gifted and worthy of your interest.”
Béronneau would go on to have a tremendously successful career, winning numerous awards and honors throughout his lifetime. He exhibited at the Salon and the Salon des Indépendants from 1895, garnering medals in 1900, 1913 and 1926. The art critic Arsène Alexandre wrote about him in the paper “Le Figaro” that he was a “great refined artist”, a “delicate, serious and often deep painter who [mixed] a great integrity with the yearning for the highest thoughts”. The French government also commissioned works, such as his “Last Hour”, currently found in the collection of the Fine-Arts Museum in Bordeaux. He became Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1914.
Canvas: 28 7/8” high x 23 5/8” wide
Frame: 35 1/4” high x 30 1/8” wide
The artist’s estate
Private collection, France
Sotheby’s Olympia, 2003
Private collection, United Kingdom