This portrait of Slavan Vidović is the first major marble by Městrović to appear at auction. It is also the first major work from the artist's Vienna Secession years to appear at auction. The subtlety of the carving and the suggestive modulation of the surface are typical of his work from this period. The mysterious and quasi-religious mood of the subject links it to the work of other Secessionists, such as the painter-founder Gustav Klimt. However, the sorrowful expression and the Slavic connotations of the subject foreshadow concerns which were to become central to the work of Městrović's mature period.
Městrović arrived in Vienna to study at the city's Academy of Fine Arts in 1901. The young sculptor began exhibiting with the Vienna Secession in 1903 and was later made a member of the selection committee. In 1910 Městrović exhibited sixty works - mostly from his celebrated Kosovo Cycle - in a dedicated hall of the Vienna Secessionist Group. The following year Městrović's work reached a a world stage at the International Exhibition in Rome, where his sculpture won the first prize and brought him global celebrity.
The portrait depicts the young son of Emanuel Vidović, a Croatian painter. The portrait was modelled during Městrović's stay in Split in 1906. A plaster version was exhibited at the XXVI Vienna Secession Exhibition that year. The model was also exhibited at the Munich Secession exhibition the following year. A version of the portrait is recorded in Curcin's monograph of 1919, given the title The Little Slavan, but the medium is not mentioned. The Atelier Městrović preserves a patinated plaster version also monogrammed IM and numbered or dated VIII. The records of the Atelier Městrović document two other versions in plaster and bronze in private collections. Městrović exhibited a piece entitled Bambino, marmo at the VII. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città de Venezia, La Biennale in 1907 under number 30. Contemporary written sources identify the exhibit as the sculptor's portrait of Slavan Vidović. The present re-discovered marble can probably be identified with the Biennale exhibit.
Whilst the early history of the piece is unknown, it probably remained in private hands in Vienna. In 1950 the Director of the Kunsthistorischen Museums in Vienna wrote to the Director of the Metropolitan Museum, New York to request that he ask Městrović who was then working in Syracuse, to identify whether this was one of his early works. In a letter of 6 November 1950 Městrović wrote directly to the Kunsthistorisches Museum to confirm that it was. Four letters relating to this correspondence are preserved in the Městrović Archive at Notre Dame University, Indiana. A transcription of Městrović's response, signed and stamped by the Administrative Direktor of the Kunsthistorischen Museum, will be forwarded to the successful bidder on this lot.
We are grateful for the assistance of Ljiljana Čerina, museum advisor, Atelijer Meštrović - Zagreb, Ivan Meštrović Museums in the cataloguing of this lot.
M. Curcin, Ivan Mestrovic, A Monograph, London, 1919, no. 47, p. 61
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