French miniature makes record price:
A portrait miniature by the elusive Antoine Berjon (1754-1843) was auctioned in Paris earlier this month for over €33,000 (£27,300) including buyer’s premium, a record price for such a picture by this artist, in whose work John Mitchell Fine Paintings has specialised for over thirty years.
The miniature Portrait of a Young Woman sitting three-quarter length in a low-cut brown Dress with a white Scarf was estimated at €2,000-3,000 and soared above its predicted value. Signed and dated ‘An 8’ in reference to the eighth year of the Revolutionary calendar (1800), the exquisite miniature was painted in oils on ivory. Berjon’s name is usually associated with his mysterious flower paintings; his miniatures however present a less well known side of his oeuvre.
In 1794 the Revolutionary army from Paris laid siege to Lyon, in a savage reprisal for the city’s support of the defeated Girondin party. As a consequence the once booming Lyonnais silk trade, which in 1740 employed 18,000 people, was destroyed. Berjon, together with many young artists like him, left Lyon for Paris in search of work. Lodging in the Place des Victoires in the capital Berjon became friends with Jean-Baptiste Augustin (1759-1832), a prolific miniaturist, who had painted such distinguished figures as Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon I and Louis XVIII. Augustin taught Berjon his craft, adding miniatures to his extensive range of skills. The miniature in question is an early example of Berjon’s work, his better known flower pieces in oil generally dating from 1810 onwards, making it all the more unusual.
For an artist of such genius Berjon’s renown has always been hampered by the scarcity of his work both commercially and in museums. However the high price achieved by this miniature proves a rarity in both availability and subject matter make today’s collectors ever hungry for all things Antoine Berjon.
Please look out for our upcoming edition of Gallery Notes in June where we will be publishing a spectacular, large flower painting by Berjon.