Signed in the lower left of the canvas by the artist (“C. Delort 1873”), this oil on canvas painting depicts a sleigh race at a French harbor. The vibrant painting has exceptional realistic detail and color, as noticed by the high sheen of the silver armor of the guardsman in the foreground. The soldier is reminiscent of a Swiss guard, with a large red beret, striped attire, and a halberd in hand, keeping two noble women at bay, who are also presented in vibrant cream, green, and red that instantly attract the viewer’s attention.
An overcast winter sky covers the harbor, which is packed with many docked ships that appear dark gray from the lack of sun. Some light gray sails are still raised along the masts, interspersed with light blue banners. The gloom from the sunless day does not affect the spectators, who are lined along the snow-packed shore that hosts the race. Three sleighs are tightly grouped in the center of the canvas with a fourth offset to the side. All four drivers have their whips held high in the air and are wearing distinctive, brightly colored clothing. A brindled dog participates in the festivities, running alongside the horses. The entire scene is surrounded by a giltwood frame with thick cavetto molding that is adorned with floral and foliate motifs.
Charles Edouard Delort was born in Nimes, France in 1841. At the age of 18, Delort entered the studio of Charles Gleyre, who would later mentor the likes of Renoir and Monet. Delort debuted at the Paris Salon in 1866 and would regularly exhibit for the next decade, mainly painting scenes that detailed life in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time of this painting, sleigh racing had been a popular wintertime sport in Europe for already 200 years. In the late 1600’s, there are records of festive sleigh races being held at Chateau Versailles, in the tradition of the slädeparti of the Northern European courts.
CONDITION: Good antique condition with minor craquelure to the canvas. Light nicks and chips to the giltwood frame, with slight buildup. Minor old touchups, but UV light inspection not performed.