Munich – hammer highlights
A rediscovered oil on canvas by the German artist Paul Emil Jacobs (1802-66) lived up to expectations as the top lot at Neumeister’s (27% buyer’s premium) September 27 sale.
His large, 4ft x 5ft 8in (1.21 x 1.72m), Szene aus einem Sklavenmarkt (Scene from a Slave-Market), was painted in Rome in 1839, just after the artist had returned from a journey to Greece. It was knocked down to a buyer in the room for an upper-estimate price of €60,000 (£53,570) after prolonged bidding.
The whereabouts of the unpublished painting, which had belonged to a Munich industrialist since the 1950s, were unknown until its appearance at Neumeister’s rostrum, its existence known only from a lithograph of part of the work executed by Karl Clauder.
Much more of a surprise was the result for an early 16th century painting of St Cecilia. The 11 x 9in (27 x 22cm) panel was attributed to the circle of Jan van Hemessen.
The Flemish artist, who was apprenticed to Hendrick van Cleve I in Antwerp, became one of the pioneers of genre painting. Several bidders in the room and on the phones were obviously convinced that the attribution was far too cautious. Their combined efforts pushed the price from the estimate of €4000-5000 to a much more substantial €52,000 (£46,430).
Poverty and suffering, but also motherly love, were the central themes in the work of Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), whose bronze Mutter mit zwei Kindern (Mother with Two Children) took pride of place at Nusser (25% buyer’s premium) in Munich on September 19.
For many decades the 2ft 6in (76cm) high group, which was cast in an edition of about 10 by the famous Berlin foundry of H Noack, went by the name Mutter mit Zwillingen (Mother with Twins). That was until someone pointed out that the two children being protected by their mother’s powerful arms are quite obviously of different ages.
Kollwitz first had the idea for a group of mother and children in about 1910, but only worked on this particular figure from 1926-37. Several of her other sculptures took even longer. On auction day a German collector secured the group, which was mounted on a marble base, for the catalogue guide price of €95,000 (£84,820).
Over the last quarter of a century fewer than 50 works by the Greek artist Nikolaos Lytras (1883-1927) have been auctioned worldwide and, until now, none of them in Germany.
But that changed at Scheublein (26% buyer’s premium) on September 22 when the artist’s 10 x 9in (25 x 23cm) Mother with Child went under the hammer.
Like his father, Lytras studied art in Munich after his initial training in Athens. While in the Bavarian capital he encountered the works of the Blaue Reiter and German Expressionist art and introduced modernist styles to his home country.
His vigorous brush strokes and the use of vibrant colours in his landscapes and portraits placed him at the forefront of modern Greek painting, reflected by the fact that many of his works are prominently displayed in the National Gallery of Athens.
Lytras also admired greatly Bonnard, whose influence can also be seen in the painting Scheublein had on offer with a guide price of €6000. In the event, it was knocked down for €11,000 (£9820), not surprisingly to a Greek buyer.
£1 = €1.12