James Ensor (1860-1949): 'Portrait de Léon Rinskoff futur baron du rat mort', mixed media on paper, Ostend, dated 1903

Work: 16,7 x 13,6 cm

Frame: 31,5 x 24,4 cm


The work bears the lettering 'Portrait de Léon Rinsko(i)ff futur baron du Rat Mort', is dated 1903 (Ostende) and signed by James Ensor.

Léon Rinskopf (19 November 1862, Ghent – 13 June 1915, Deauville) was director of the Ostend Conservatory (1891-1914) and a close friend of James Ensor. Rinskopf studied at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent and obtained several awards. From 1882 to 1885 he was assistant teacher of piano at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent. In addition to his task as director of the Conservatory, he mainly made a name for himself as a conductor. When Emile Périer passed away as first conductor of the Kursaal Orchestra, Léon Rinskopf was appointed as his successor. He also took over the artistic direction of the Kursaal. He invited well-known foreign conductors and in 1906 Camille Saint-Saëns and Richard Strauss personally conducted their compositions at his invitation. He also regularly featured Belgian composers such as Jan Blockx, Peter Benoit, Sylvain Dupuis, Charles Mestdagh, Florimond Van Duyse and others. At the outbreak of the First World War, Rinskopf fled to France. He died in Deauville on June 13, 1915 in the Hotel Normandy. In 1921, on February 3, the heirs made a donation to the city of Ostend of fifty bonds with a nominal value of one hundred francs each, the interest of which was to be used for the award of a three-yearly prize ‘Léon Rinskopf for the higher grade piano. This price still exists. (link)

The dead rat in the top right corner is a reference to the 'Compagnie du Rat Mort'. In 1896, a group of sixteen exuberant Ostend men, including James Ensor, all members of Cercle Coecilia, went to Paris. They thought it would be nice to put the flowers outside and they had a great time in the Montmartre quarter of the French capital. ‘Au Moulin Rouge’, ‘Le Ciel’ as well as ‘L'Enfer’ were on their program, and late at night or early in the morning they ended up in the ‘Rat Mort’. The director of this cabaret was a Belgian. In the “Rat Mort” the orchestra had already left at this point, but the pianist and some nice dancers provided a fitting epilogue to the unforgettable, festive Parisian night. Once back in Ostend, the Parisian adventures were explained in scents and colours in the ‘Cercle Coecilia’ for the slightly shocked ‘senateurs’, the older ‘wise men’ of the circle. On that occasion, Monteville, supported by James Ensor and Emil Bulcke, proposed organizing a humorous evening by a 'Compagnie du Rat Mort', which of course consisted of the 'Parisiens' and a few other jokers, but on the understanding that anybody could attend the evenings of laughter. Specifically, they thought of organizing crazy and masked balls and eccentric concerts, as well as the establishment of carnival groups. February 21, 1898 marked a milestone in the life of the 'Compagnie' : that day Rat Mort's first ball took place in Kursaal in Ostend. It was an immediate success and was the harbinger of a long series of superb Shrovetide balls. Naturally, James Ensor left his mark on the conception of the first ‘Bal du Rat Mort’, which has since remained an Ensorian dance party in spirit. (link)



- Part of the exhibition 'Joodse sporen in Oostende', Venetiaanse Gaanderijen Oostende, 15 June - 24 September 2000. 

- Zahava Seewald, Joodse sporen in Oostende, Antwerp, 2000.



- Private collection, Belgium. 


Estimate: € 8000 - € 12000