Women of Paris: The Circus Lover

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836–1902)


147.3 x 101.6 cm (58 x 40 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Sidney and Esther Rabb Gallery (Gallery 255)





Like the Impressionists, particularly his friend Edgar Degas, Tissot chose his subjects from modern urban life. His precise, detailed, and anecdotal style, however, was more closely related to conservative academic painting. This work belongs to a series called La Femme à Paris (Women of Paris), eighteen large paintings that depict women of different social classes encountered as if by chance at various occupations and amusements. Here, the woman engages the viewer as a participant in the action by her direct glance out of the picture. The event is a “high-life circus,” in which the amateur performers were members of the aristocracy.


Lower left: J. J. Tissot


1885, with Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris; 1886, with Arthur Tooth and Son, London [see note 1]. 1889, E. Simon; March 30, 1889, anonymous (Simon) sale, Christie's, London, lot 143, to Mr. King. Goupil Gallery, London (?) [see note 2]. The Hon. Mrs. Arthur Henniker (Inger Margueretta Hutchinson) (d. 1923), Suffolk, England. By 1955, Gerald M. Fitzgerald, London [see note 3]; July 26, 1957, anonymous (Fitzgerald) sale, Christie's, London, lot 100, to Mr. Lloyd, director of Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London; 1958, sold by Marlborough Fine Art to the MFA for $5000 [see note 4]. (Accession Date: February 13, 1958)

[1] This painting was one in a series by Tissot, "Quinze Tableaux sur la Femme à Paris," exhibitied at the Galerie Sedelmeyer, April 19 - June 15, 1885, cat. no. 11 ("Les Femmes de sport"). It was exhibited at the Tooth Gallery, 1886, in "Pictures of Parisian Life" (cat. no. 7, "The Amateur Circus"). See Michael Wentworth, "James Tissot" (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984), Appendix V. [2] Notes in the curatorial file indicate that there is a label on the reverse of the stretcher from William Marchant and Co., The Goupil Gallery, London. [3] He lent the painting to the exhibition "James Tissot (1836-1902): An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings" (Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, May 1955), cat. no. 45. [4] Accessioned with the title "Amateur Circus."

Credit Line

Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection