Friday, October 14, 2011

White Goddess/White Princess

This 2010 painting by fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac was sold on September 14 by Christie's South Kensington for £7500. It appropriates and juxtaposes some extremely well-known images, Botticelli's The Birth of Venus in the background and repeating scenes of the heroine from Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) in the foreground. Judging from the title and the composition, the artist is commenting on ideals of aging, beauty, behavior, and romance, and even on how these tie in with our preconceived notions of race.

Christie's described the medium as oil and acrylic on canvas, but that's not the whole story. The background image is a hand-painted oil copy of the Botticelli masterpiece by Chinese artists under commission from de Castelbajac. The artist then silkscreened the classic Disney images over this.

In my view, the images appropriated wholesale by the artist are much stronger than any particular statement he might be making about them. I can't imagine what sort of picture this artist might produce if left only to his own devices, but his fashion designs, while pretty imaginative, also pay homage to his love of classic cartoons.

Lot Description
Jean-Charles de Castelbajac (b.1949)
White Goddess[/]White Princess
signed, titled, and dated 'White Goddess White Princess JC DE CASTELBAJAC 2010' (on the reverse)
oil and acrylic on canvas
69 x 109½in. (175.3 x 278cm.)
Painted in 2010 

Price Realized

  • £7,500
  • ($11,775)
  • Price includes buyer's premium
    £6,000 - £8,000
  • ($9,504 - $12,672)

Sale Information

Sale 3693 Lot 241
Post-War & Contemporary Art 
14 September 2011
London, South Kensington 

Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("droit de Suite"). If the Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer also agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


Private Collection, Paris.
London, Paradise Now Gallery, Triumph of the Sign, 2010.
Paris, B.A.N.K. Galerie, The Tyranny of Beauty, 2010.

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, White Goddess[/]White Princess
Image modified October 13, 2013

In the interest of showing how White Goddess/White Princess is representative of this artist's recent work, I now would like to show a few more works from The Tyranny of Beauty show, 2010:

The Days of Pearly Spencer

The Revel of the Evil Rebel

The Kiss[/]Beauty and the Geek
Image revised April 24, 2012

Terror of the Mirror

Lilia in Cruce Floruere [sic]
Aurora Borealis
Image added April 26, 2012


Image added April 26, 2012

Glory in Coma

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac with his son Louis-Marie in front of his Glory in Coma
Image added April 25, 2012

In his earlier fall 2009 collection, de Castelbajac's love of classic Disney is evident:

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