The Complete Works of Philippe Smit
by Andreas Narzt and Florence Castellani
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Catalogue entry

Photo: Christopher Burke Studios, NY; © FdDPS


Emma »


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Classification: Painting »
Theme: figurative »
Medium: Oil »
Support: on canvas »
Year(s): 1917 »
PS 176 (P 234; LNC 177)
L'Enfant Prodigue (The Prodigal Child)
Alternate titles: Emma Kneeling on Beach; Het verloren kind; l'Enfant prodigue; The Prodigal Child
Oil on canvas
69 x 47 1/8 in. (175 x 119.5 cm)
Signed and dated lower left: Philippe/ 1917; titled, dedicated and signed on the back lower left: retour/ de/ L'enfant prodigue/ a [sic] mon cher ami Nico/ Philippe
On the back: a handwritten label: Mr. Theod Pitcairn/ N° 234/ Emma Kneeling on Beach on the stretcher in the center and à metal plate Pitcairn on the side of the frame upper left.
Inv. Pitcairn, n.d. [c.1957], n.p., LNC archives: no. P 234, Rev. Theodore Pitcairn. Emma Kneeling at the Beach, Smit, Oil, 69 x 47 [in.].
Kunsthandel De Heem, Atelier 'de Sparren', Laren, Netherlands, Tentoonstelling Phillippe Smit, October 03–11, 1920, no. 5, as l'Enfant prodigue.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts, United States, Philippe Smit, An Exhibition of Works by a Twentieth Century Dutch Master, December 01–29, 1957, no. 8, as The Prodigal Child, Oil - 1917, 76 x 55 [in.].
Literature & Primary Sources
Philippe Smit. ALS to his father. Laren, 6 November [19]17, as l'Enfant prodigue.
Niehaus, Kasper. "Philippe Smit: Kunsthandel 'de Heem', Laren." De Telegraaf (Amsterdam), 07-10-1920, p. 7, as l'Enfant prodigue.
"Uit het Gooi." Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant (Rotterdam), 05-10-1920, p. 5, as l'Enfant prodigue ("… no. 5 l'Enfant prodigue …").
Niehaus, Kasper. "Schilderkunst, Philippe Smit." Maandblad voor beeldende kunsten Eerste Jaargang, n°11 (11/1924), p. 321, as Het verloren kind.
"[…] Emma a passé quelques temps ici [Hollande]/ Car j’ai fait un grand tableau […] et l’autre tableau/ c’est l’enfant prodigue/ c’est aussi Emma qui a posé[e] pour ça/ ce tableau a 1m.75 de haut sur 1m.20/de large./ et j’ai présenté Emma arrive[e] à un/ rivage désolé ou elle est a genoux/ remercient Dieu d’être de retour a/ Droit du tableaux on voit un grand/ bateaux une voile tres sombre violet/ et la plage ou elle à territ./ c’est les bord de Zuiderzée le sable/ est vieux jaune et la mer vieux vert./ et le ciel est couroussé sombre tragique/ violet. et Emma a les yeux élevé[s]/ au ciel, les mains jointes, et la/ jupe et d’un rouge lilas un peu passé/ mais du plus riche que vous vous pouvez/ imaginez les croquis que je vous ferrait/ ne vous donnerait quant même/ ce que c’est, c’est pour ça je préferait vous l’ecrire, vous pouvez mieux pensé ce que ça peut être. […]" [sic] (... Emma spent some time here [Holland] because I made a large painting … and another painting which is the prodigal child, it is also Emma who posed for it, this painting is 1m79 high and 1m20 wide, and I portrayed Emma arriving on a desolate shore where she is on her knees and thanking God to be back, to the right of the painting one sees a large ship with a dark violet sail and the shore where the landed, this is the shore of Zuiderzée, the sand is darkish yellow and the sea darkish green, and the sky is a menacingly dark tragic violet, and Emma has her eyes raised to the sky, the hands folded, and the skirt a lilac red slightly faded, much richer than you would imagine as the sketches I will make for you will not do justice which is why I prefer to write you so that you can better know what it will be. ...) (Philippe Smit 1917)

On the 20 April 1919 Nicolaas Urban informs René Massé in a letter about the death of Emma and describes to him this painting which he could have never seen, while praising Philippe’s progress during his stay in Holland and the importance of his sister in his work: "Philippe’s life and Philippe’s art was one with the life of his dear Emma."1

1. "La vie de Ph. et l’art de Ph. c’était/ un avec la vie de sa chère Emma." (Nicolaas Urban, ALS to René Massé, Laren, 20 April 1919 (Massé album, private archives, Paris).

See biographical note on Emma Smit.

Record last updated May 8, 2017. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
Citation: Narzt, Andreas and Castellani, Florence. "L'Enfant Prodigue (The Prodigal Child), 1917 (PS 176)." The Complete Works of Philippe Smit. (accessed on September 26, 2021).