Robert Delaunay, Saint Séverin, ca. 1923-5 (?), color lithograph

L'Eglise Saint Séverin

Loyer & Perussaux 2

lithograph, circa 1923-25*, a very fine impression, the only known state, of the utmost rarity, printed in black over a pale yellow-bistre tint stone ("pierre de teint") on medium-heavy wove paper, exceptionally signed and dedicated by the artist in pencil ("en toute sympathie à Mr Duchesne", lower left), with good margins, probably a proof from the first edition (size unknown though apparently very small; there was at least one later edition**), very slight time-staining and some light unobtrusive foxing, a diagonal crimping in the far lower left corner (this impression has never been cleaned), and a short printing crease lower edge of the image, otherwise in very good condition

P.570x420mm., S. 635x495mm.

Provenance: a private French collection

The present impression of this important print is difficult to describe fully, as little is apparently known of its conception, execution, and edition... even in the entry of the catalogue raisonné!  Loyer & Perussaux only specify that impressions from the first print run are extremely rare ["Rarissimes épreuves du tirage de l'époque..."]

It would be tempting of course to date it to 1909, situating the lithograph in an early conceptual role for this seminal Series in Delauunay's development of "Orphic" cubism.

The conception of the Series is worth investigating.  Dated 1909-10, there is a graphic sketch of the vaulting in Saint-Séverin (see https://www.centrepompidou.fr/fr/ressources/oeuvre/cEnerj9) for the series that demonstrates Delaunay's aesthetic intentions, and they already seem to be well in place.

Though Apollinaire speaks of "noblesse de la ligne", another valid analogy would of course be musical: rhythm, resonance, harmonics, shifts, transitions, both in space and color (and it is well known that Delaunay studied Michel-Eugène Chevreul's theory the simultaneous contrast of color), and this may be seen in the formal interplay of space and color among the pictures themselves.

The Series comprises 7 canvases in all, first three of which may be seen here:

        - N° 1  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Delaunay,_Saint-S%C3%A9verin_No._1,_1909.jpg

        - N° 2  https://collections.artsmia.org/art/772/saint-severin-robert-delaunay

        - N° 3  https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/1017

It should also be noted that Kandinsky invited Delaunay in 1911 to take part in the first Blaue Reiter exhibition at Munich, where he sent five works, including the Saint-Séverin N° 1.  He was quite favorably recognized by the German critics, who would soon refer to him as the first-known Expressionist!

*  The print is sometimes dated to 1909, as indicated in the lower inscription by the artist in the stone.

**  According to Loyer & Perussaux, there is a posthumous edition undertaken by Sonia Delaunay in 1969, with 75 impressions printed in black, 25 impressions H.C., signed  "pour Robert Delaunay/ Sonia Delaunay", and bearing the oval stamp "ATELIER ROBERT DELAUNAY" in red:

       -  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Delaunay_Saint_Severin.jpg (apparently from a Bonham's sale)

     There are however certain impressions, ostensibly from this posthumous edition, that have the additional bistre tone plate:

       -  https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2005/old-master-modern-and-contemporary-prints-including-andy-warhol-and-the-pop-generation-l05160/lot.48.html

     It should be added that some early first edition impressions are described as signed by Sonia Delaunay as well, cf. https://www.auction.fr/_fr/lot/robert-delaunay-saint-severin-vers-1923-1925-748430