A Wonderful 19thC French School Oil on Board of a Waiter Serving a Lobster c.1890

Origin: French
Period: 3rd Republic
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1880-1900
Width: 12.5"
Height: 15.75"

The wonderfully absorbing French school oil on board of a French table waiter, depicted in full length in his white aprons and black jacket, clutching a knife and fork in one hand, the other arm outstretched presenting a full two-clawed lobster on a silver serving platter, the whole realised upon a dark background and the composition surviving from the last quarter of nineteenth century France.

The picture is in unrestored condition with flecked losses, as pictured, to the lower section, though does not suffer from any major losses, showing an even amount of craquelure to its surface. There is one repaired small hole to the mid left. It remains un-cleaned and in very original order. The painting is apparently unsigned. A clean may bring out more of the colour in the picture but we prefer to leave these decisions to the eventual buyer and its un-meddled with condition is appealing. There are remains of the original paper trade label to the reverse, we can only make out 'la peinture l'huile maison ?erville d'an?' - further research may prove fruitful in this regard.

On French menus, the European lobster, the homard, will often be called the homard bleu, the blue lobster. European lobsters are mostly blue or blackish-blue when taken from the sea, hence this French name. After cooking, the European lobsters turn red just like their American cousins. Within France, it is accepted that the best lobsters come from Brittany, and that explains another of the European Lobster's names, the Homard Breton.

Now readily available but still a luxury, the lobster was a favourite with Victorian period chefs catering for state banquets, ball suppers and society dinners. Theodore Garrett's six-part Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery (1892), aimed at restaurant and hotel chefs, contains 71 lobster recipes. His Aspic of Lobster involves layering lobster spawn, butters and slices in an intricate tower of jelly. Display dining, moreover, demanded display cutlery. In the latter part of the century, inventors registered patents for intricately engraved lobster crackers, the must-have implement for stylish Victorian tables.

One of our all-time favourite pictures;, such a wonderful subject and so beautifully depicted.