Euterpe, Alec and Cotz Ionides
- Place of origin:
Bellenger, Georges, born 1847 - died 1915 (artist)
- Materials and Techniques:
Oil on canvas
- Credit Line:
Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Georges Bellenger (1847-1918) was a French painter, illustrator and lithographer. A pupil of Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1802-1897) at the ‘Petite Ecole’ in Paris, he exhibited work at the Salons in Paris from 1864 and in London between 1875 and 1879. He was notable for his still-life and landscapes but he also produced portraits such as this one. He was perhaps best known for his illustrative work for French writers such as Emile Zola.
This particular painting is one of a group of 20 family portraits commissioned to different artists. This work portrays C.A. Ionides’s eldest children: Euterpe, Alexander Constantine called ‘Alec’ and Constantine Albert called ‘Cotz’. They are portrayed in their home, 8 Holland Villas Road, which presents a typical mid-19th century bourgeois interior with a Turkish rug, Neo-Renaissance table and a porcelain vase with floral motifs, items which are representative of their father’s furniture collection. Ionides extensive collection included also over a thousand paintings, drawings and prints and was bequeathed to the museum in 1900.
On the left, a young girl in a white dress sits on a chair in profile, she holds an open book in her hands; ext to her stands a boy looking straight out at the viewer; his arms rest on the shoulder of a shorter boy who stands with his hands in his pockets and his right leg crossed in front of his left; both boys wear a dark, knee-length suit; in the background is a table on which are two books and a blue and white vase containing pink, red and white flowers.
Place of Origin
Bellenger, Georges, born 1847 - died 1915 (artist)
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Marks and inscriptions
Georges Bellenger 1869
signed and dated at lower right
Height: 118.4 cm estimate, Width: 140.7 cm estimate
Object history note
Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900. However, it was stipulated in the will that this, along with 19 other family portraits, should stay in the family until the death of his wife - she died in 1920 when the paintings were received by the museum.
Historical significance: This oil painting on canvas is signed and dated 'Georges Bellenger 1869'. It depicts the three eldest children of Constantine Alexander Ionides (1810-1890) and his wife Agathonike Fenerli (1845-1920) - Euterpe, Alec and Cotz in their home at 8 Holland Villas Road in London. As the painting was made there, Bellenger probably made the journey from Paris to London that year. Like a few compatriots such as Alphonse Legros and Henri Fantin-Latour, Bellenger was probably seeking for new commissions and patrons on the London art market. Under the influence of Alphonse Legros, a close friend with whom he travelled abroad, Ionides bought a wide selection of nineteenth-century French paintings, which adds up to a consequent collection of Italian and French Old Masters.
This painting is a typical example of Realist portrait paintings which developed in France in the second half of the 19th century. It presents a direct objective representation of the sitter in the vein developed by Courbet and his followers. The Turkish rug and Neo-Renaissance table in the background as well as the vase are representative of a mid-century 'bourgeois' interior but also reflects Ionides' taste for collecting furniture and ceramics. This particular painting is one of a group of 20 family portraits which, while part of the original bequest, did not come to the museum until the death of his widow in 1920.
Historical context note
In his encyclopaedic work, Historia Naturalis, the ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder described the origins of painting in the outlining of a man's projected shadow in profile. In the ancient period, profile portraits were found primarily in imperial coins. With the rediscovery and the increasing interest in the Antique during the early Renaissance, artists and craftsmen looked back to this ancient tradition and created medals with profile portraits on the obverse and personal devise on the reverse in order to commemorate and celebrate the sitter. Over time these profile portraits were also depicted on panels and canvas, and progressively evolved towards three-quarter and eventually frontal portraits.
These portraits differ in many ways from the notion of portraiture commonly held today as they especially aimed to represent an idealised image of the sitter and reflect therefore a different conception of identity. The sitter's likeness was more or less recognisable but his particular status and familiar role were represented in his garments and attributes referring to his character. The 16th century especially developed the ideal of metaphorical and visual attributes through the elaboration of highly complex portrait paintings in many formats including at the end of the century full-length portraiture. Along with other devices specific to the Italian Renaissance such as birth trays (deschi da parto) and wedding chests' decorated panels (cassoni or forzieri), portrait paintings participated to the emphasis on the individual.
Portrait paintings were still fashionable during the following centuries and extended to the rising bourgeoisie and eventually to common people, especially during the social and political transformations of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century, painted portraits were challenged and eventually supplanted by the development of new media such as photography.
Oil painting on canvas, 'Euterpe, Alec and Cotz Ionides', Georges Bellenger, 1869
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 4-5, cat. no. 11.
B.S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection. Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London, 1925, p. 3.
A. C. Ionides junior, Ion: a grandfather's tale, Dublin, 1927.
A. C. Ionides junior, Notes and index, privately printed 1927, p. 41.
Oil paint; Canvas
Table; Book; Rug; Flowers; Vase
Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection