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Raden Saleh painting discovered in France

Dylan Amirio, Indah Setiawati and Reuben Wylie
Dylan Amirio, Indah Setiawati and Reuben Wylie

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, January 26, 2018 | 08:42 am
Raden Saleh painting discovered in France

Perburuan Banteng (Banteng Hunt) by Raden Saleh (Courtesy of French auction house Jack-Philippe Ruellan/File)

Got an old painting lying around? Be sure to check the artist’s signature. 

A painting by renowned Indonesian artist Raden Saleh has been discovered in a cellar in France. Titled Perburuan Banteng (Banteng Hunt), the painting is set to be auctioned on Jan. 27. Auctioneer Jack-Philippe Ruellan told The Jakarta Post that the painting would have a reserve price of €200,000 (US$248,433) and given that a similar painting sold for €1.5 million at Christie’s Singapore in 1996, the hammer price for this work could be around €1 million.

Like much of Saleh’s art, the subject is a 19th century “great hunt” of a fearsome wild animal. In this work, Saleh himself appears on horseback with a Javanese hunting party as they engage a wild bull in Java. 

The painting was discovered in August 2017 in a Breton home.

“The family had no idea what they had and wanted to get rid of this big painting,” Ruellan said, adding that the family inherited it from a great aunt who had lived with a diplomat and traveled all over the world.

Realizing the great value of the painting, he began researching with French gallery Cabinet Turquin, which found that the painting was a fourth addition to three artworks representing a similar theme of a Banteng Hunt, two of which are in the art collection in the State Palace. 

The painting is believed to have been commissioned by Jules Stanislas Sigisbert Cézard, the son of wealthy French coffee and sugar traders, who was born in Jakarta (then called Batavia) in 1829. 

An expert on Saleh, Werner Kraus, said that in 1859 Cézard returned to France, selling his house and fittings including a Saleh work as announced in the newspaper Java-Bode on Apr. 30 1859, “Een schilderstuk van Raden Saleh voorstellende eene banteng Jagt” (a painting by Raden Saleh representing a banteng hunt).

“What drew me the most when I discovered the painting was the quality of the composition, quality of the portraits, the dynamism,” Ruellan said. 

Saleh is widely regarded as Indonesia’s first modern artist. He refined his skills in the Netherlands before going on to receive acclaim in Germany and Paris for his signature Orientalist animal hunts and fights. 

Agus Dermawan T., an art critic and consultant to the palace art collection, said hunts were a popular theme in Saleh’s work between 1845 and 1855. 

He explained that Saleh’s acquaintance with wildlife began when he worked as an animal tamer in a circus. Saleh, who admired the works of French artist Eugene Delacroix who also loved to paint wildlife, later depicted the subject on many canvases. 

Agus said the painting appeared to show dusk, unlike the blue skies seen in the works in the presidential collection. 

“This painting style is common in Saleh’s works, like when he painted the explosion of Mount Merapi — in the morning, afternoon, dusk and evening. It was his business strategy,” he said. 

He said the reserve price of €200,000 was reasonable, given that the painter’s masterpiece, The Arrest of Prince Diponegoro ( 1857 ), which is in the presidential collection, is valued at around Rp 80 billion ($6.02 million). 

Agus said there were no more than 30 Saleh works in Indonesia, including six in the State Palace. 

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Reuben Wylie is an intern at The Jakarta Post

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