Sotheby's at 275

From Hidden Treasure to Star Lot: Wassily Kandinsky‘s 'Leise'

By Joëlle Romba
As we celebrate 50 Years of Sotheby's in Germany, leading specialists from offices in the region share personal highlights of their time at Sotheby's; from rediscovered treasures to auction records and historic sales. Here, Joëlle Romba recounts the moment she came face to face with a piece of Bauhaus history.

I n summer 2017 we were approached from a Berlin-based family regarding a drawing they owned a by Wassily Kandinsky called Leise, and the drawing has a fascinating story. Some time after their relative Irene Kühnel — Kunze and widow of Prof. Ernst Kühnel died in 1988, the family found this treasure hidden in a drawer amongst wrapping paper.

The family could not believe their eyes when they realised their catch. The drawing is a reflection of Kandinsky’s Point and Line to Plane (1926). It is not only a beautiful and very typical geometric composition by Wassily Kandinsky of these years, it also reveals a story of friendship among some important players of the cultural world in late 1920s Berlin, as the family later found out. It was given by Kandinsky — the already famous artist and influential teacher at Bauhaus — to the well known art historian, critic and supporter of Modern Art, Dr. Will Grohmann shortly after its completion in December 1929.

Dr. Grohmann gave this jewel to his close friend Prof. Ernst Kühnel in Berlin who was at that time a famous art historian and the director of the Islamic department at the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin (from 1931 onwards). From there on it remained in the possession of his family and somehow got forgotten. Resting in a drawer for years, kept away from daylight and therefore safely conserved for decades...

When the heirs approached us, we suggested our 2017 Bauhaus: Defining a Century sale in which this beautiful constructed composition fit enormously well. Against an estimate of £100,000-150,000 it was then sold in October 2017 in London for the outstanding sum of £308,750, becoming the star lot of the sale.

Interested in selling a work by Wassily Kandinsky? Request an Estimate.

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

More from Sotheby's