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Estimate: $ 60,000 - $ 90,000
HENRY OSSAWA TANNER (1859 - 1937) Christ and Nicodemus (Early Study).
Oil on thick cardstock, circa 1923. 267x345 mm; 10 1/2x13 5/8 inches. With the artist's estate ink stamp, and signed by the artist's son Jesse O. Tanner in ink, verso. With a pencil sketch of a landscape on the verso.
Provenance: estate of the artist; Grand Central Art Galleries, New York; private New York collection.
This oil study is a remarkable, early study for one of the artist's major paintings, which reveals his preliminary experimentations. There was previously only one known oil study for each of his famous, large Nicodemus oil paintings--Nicodemus, 1899, in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Nicodemus Visiting Jesus, 1927, private collection. This study appears to be an early version of the latter. While similar in composition and scale, in this study, the figures' positions are reversed. Moreover, this version is not nocturnal--its palette is quite different from the final version's evening of evocative blues and purples. The other study for Christ and Nicodemus on a Rooftop is dated circa 1923, and is in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. The Smithsonian describes how the story of Nicodemus visiting Christ at night relates to practices of African-American worship that Tanner remembered from his youth. After emancipation, freed slaves continued to meet at night, as they had done when their masters had forbidden them to read the Bible. Marley pp. 268-269.