Skeletons in the StudioEnlarge image

Skeletons in the Studio, 1900

James Ensor
Belgian, 1860 - 1949
oil on canvas
111 x 79.5 cm
Purchased 1981
National Gallery of Canada (no. 23976)
© Estate of James Ensor / SODRAC (2017)

This macabre scene in a corner of the artist’s studio includes several elements that recur in Ensor’s paintings: masks, costumes, oriental objects, and seemingly animate clothed skeletons. The jumbled collection of curios recall his mother’s souvenir shop, which was below the artist’s studio, in Ostend, Belgium.


by 1922 – 1980/03/26
Max Hallet (1864–1941), Brussels, Belgium, purchased from the artist; his daughter Suzanne Janson-Hallet and her husband Emile Janson, Brussels, by inheritance [1]

1980/03/26 – 1981/04/02
E.V. Thaw & Co., Inc. (Eugene Victor Thaw, b.1921), New York, N.Y., United States of America, and Stephen Hahn, New York, owned jointly, purchased from Suzanne Janson-Hallet [2]

1981/04/02 –
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from E.V. Thaw [3]


[1] According to Sotheby's sales catalogue of 1980, Max Hallet acquired the painting directly from the artist [“Important Impressionist and Modern Paintings and Sculpture.” Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, March 26, 1980, lot no. 12]. It was in Hallet's possession by 1922, as mentioned by Le Roy [Le Roy, Grégoire. “James Ensor.” Brussels and Paris 1922, p. 187.] Max Hallet was a lawyer and socialist politician, who probably put the work on display at his home, the elegant Hôtel Max Hallet in Brussels, designed by Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta. Along with Ensor, Hallet was closely associated with the Belgian avant-garde “Groupe des Vingt”(“Les XX”), promoting contemporary art in Brussels. Skeletons in the Studio was inherited by Hallet's daughter Suzanne Janson-Hallet and her husband Emile Janson. Suzanne Janson-Hallet sold the painting on March 26, 1980 at Sotheby Parke Bernet, London [see above].

[2] Skeletons in the Studio was acquired by Eugene Thaw and Stephen Hahn at the 1980 Sotheby's sale [see note 1 and e-mail by Patty Tang, of E.V. Thaw & Co. to A. Kausch, NGC Provenance Research Project, 2008/07/18, NGC curatorial file].

[3] The National Gallery of Canada purchased Skeletons in the Studio from E.V. Thaw & Co. on April 2, 1981 [Accession log, NGC curatorial file].

Provenance completed



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