Victor-Gabriel Gilbert: Paris Market
The energy surrounding the exchange of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and flowers at the various place des marchés in the bustling city of Paris enamored Victor Gilbert and prompted the works for which he is most celebrated. The enormous meat and produce market in north-central Paris, Les Halles, was a frequent subject for Gilbert, and it also served as the backdrop for Emile Zola’s Le ventre de Paris (1873).
In the present work, a soft afternoon light beaming through skylights brightens a corner of this small indoor market, illuminating the various wares. On full display are Gilbert’s skills as a master of still life. With a meticulous attention to detail, he expertly renders every detail from a glass pitcher, to straw baskets, to the poultry and game in the stalls, and even to the customer’s hat being finely fashioned with blooms from the flower stand.
Gilbert likely included this work at the 1885 Paris Salon, as a contemporary journal describes his market scene in which the customers have all left and the merchants are left to take a break. The butchers have turned over their stall in order to make a game table and play the card game piquet. A little further, a spirited young woman and her fellow market tenants play a game of palets, a drinking cap game, with a wager likely made on the poultry pieces, game, leg of lamb and vegetables that Gilbert has been so careful to paint. [Sotheby's]