An Intriguing 19thC Continental School Oil on Canvas of Revellers Fleeing from a Ghostly Apparition


Origin: Continental, Probably Flemish
Period: Mid / Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1860-80
Canvas Height: 13.5 inches
Canvas Width: 17.5 inches

Painted in oils on canvas, the lively composition showing a group of revellers in period dress captured in shock and surprise, fleeing a ghostly masked and cloaked apparition center right, and duly fleeing out of two doors, one at the top of a flight of stairs, is apparently unsigned.

Although undeniably dirty, and un-framed, the quality of the painting is quite accomplished especially in the use of light, radiating from the apparition across the canvas, its rays picking out the various terrified faces. Amongst the dirt one can pick out a stags taxidermy mount above the door and perhaps the subject of this picture is part of a local folk lore or tale, though the apparition could well be the Ghost of Christmas present as there is holly draped upon the picture behind it, to the stag, and there is mistletoe to the ceiling, whilst the ghost himself holds a candle out as per the story. This is not conclusive though as whether Dickens’ tale had reached the continent is unclear, as the style of this painting is almost certainly not English.

In terms of trying to place this picture into historical context, as luck would have it we have been notified by chance that there is a related work to this one, where the revellers are fleeing not up some stairs, but instead, out of an open window. This related picture was last seen in 1995 and was purchased in Antwerp, Belgium and then sold to a buyer in the USA. There is most certainly a link between the two and further research may well prove very fruitful.

By a competent hand, this rather fun and comical picture has masses of interest not least because it’s unsigned but also because of our knowing of a sister picture.