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Early work by Alexej von Jawlenksy – estimate €200,000-300,000 at the Côte Basque auction.

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The 2ft 10in x 2ft 2in (87x 68cm) oil on canvas, with cyrillic inscriptions and the trace of a signature by Jawlensky on the reverse, depicts an elderly Jewish man at prayer.

It shows the influence of Ilya Repin, who was Jawlensky’s teacher when he was still based in Russia before he moved to Germany and took up the Expressionist style for which he is so well known today.

The painting’s existence was unknown until it was rediscovered in a private collection in Bayonne. It has been identified via two published archival photos from c.1893 which clearly show the artist working on the canvas in the company of his friend and fellow artist Marianne Werefkin.

Both the young painters visited a Jewish village in the summer of 1893 and Jawlensky produced a series of portraits of residents and rabbis of which this work is thought to be a part.

The painting, which is unfinished and has been reduced from the original size visible in the photographs, is thought to have arrived in France c.1900 and was acquired by a Polish Jewish doctor who came to France in the 1920s and ended up settling in Bayonne. His grandchildren could attest to the painting being in the family at least before 1950.

The painting has been authenticated by the Jawlensky-Archiv SA foundation in Muralto, Switzerland and will feature in the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s works.

The estimate is €200,000-300,000.

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