James Ensor, The Haunted Fireplace
James Ensor (1860-1949)

The Haunted Fireplace, 1888

Crayon, coloured pencil and oil on prepared panel, H. 0.22 m; W. 0.18 m

Signed twice and dated lower left: Ensor 1888

Augusta Boogaerts (1870-1951) , daughter of a hotel owner from Ostend (Augusta Boogaerts worked from 1888 for a while in the souvenir shop of Ensor's mother in Ostend but subsequently moved to Brussels, remaining Ensor's lifelong muse, friend and manager and referred to as 'La Sirène' by the artist.)
With Galerie Georges Giroux, Brussels
Mr A. De Kinder, Brussels by 1946
Mrs A. De Kinder, Brussels by 1951
By whom sold at auction, Brussels, Galerie Giroux, 14th February 1953, lot 29
Where acquired by Dr. Jean-Pierre Schotte (+24 Nov.2001), Lathem-Saint-Martin
His descendants
Private collection



1945, Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, Exposition Hommage à James Ensor, n° 51, as ‘collection particulière, ancienne collection Boogaerts.

1946, London, National Gallery, The Works of James Ensor, n° 18, lent by Mr. A. De Kinder.

1951, Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, James Ensor, Retrospectieve, p. 41, n° 73, lent by Mrs A. De Kinder, Brussels.

2009, New York, Museum of Modern Art, James Ensor, p. 142 & 193, plate 48.

2009-2010, Paris, Musée d’Orsay, James (art) Ensor, cat. 21, p. 111 & p. 258.

2010-2011, Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Hareng Saur. Ensor and Contemporary Art, p. 230, cat. n° 49 (ill. p. 31).

2016-2017, Bonn, Kunstmuseum, Unheimlich. The Uncanny Home. Interiors from Edvard Munch to Max Beckmann, p. 152 & 233.


Robert Hoozee, S. Bown-Taevernier, J.F. Heybroek, James Ensor. Tekeningen en Prenten, (Antwerpen, 1987), p. 76-77, n°47 (ill.).

James Ensor, exh. cat. Paris, musée du Petit Palais, 27 avril – 22 juillet 1990, p. 24 (ill.).

James Gheeraert, De geheime wereld van James Ensor. Ensors behekste jonge jaren (1860-1893), Antwerp -Baarn, 2001, p. 93.

Catherine de Zegher (ed.), Between Street and Mirror: The Drawings of James Ensor, New York and Minneapolis, 2001, p. 18 (ill.).

Susan M. Canning, “James Ensor: Carnival of the Modern”, in exh. cat. James Ensor, New York, 2009, p. 32.

Susan M. Canning, “Le carnaval de la modernité”, in exh. cat. James (art) Ensor, Paris, Musée d’Orsay, 2009, p. 68.

After his father’s death in 1887, Ensor lived surrounded by women: his mother, his aunt Maria Ludovica called «Mimi» and his sister Mitche, whom he often drew. This drawing, like all works of Ensor’s early career, reflects the intimate world of his family home, filled with objects and ornaments. Increasingly refined and capricious, his play of lines reveals a hidden world lurking in the shadows of the sculpted furniture and decorative elements. Here, his mother and sister are seated in a half-light in front of the chimney. Above their heads, amidst the unrecognizable jumble of bibelots, appears the face of the artist himself, standing in front of the mirror.

Our work is part of a group of drawings made by Ensor on prepared wooden panels,((Another example is La Couseuse, 1888, black chalk on panel, H. 235 mm; W. 185 mm, private collection, exh. cat. Paris, Musée d’Orsay, James (art) Ensor, 2009, p.222, note 15.)) where the techniques of drawing and painting overlap and merge. The drawing is done with black chalk and charcoal, enhanced with oil paint, and retouched by scrubbing and scratching the surface.