Lot 219
  • 219

Helene Schjerfbeck Finnish 1862-1946

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Helene Schjerfbeck
  • Tanssiaiskengät; Balskorna (dancing shoes)
  • signed H Schjerfbeck upper left
  • oil on canvas
  • 55 by 64.5cm., 21¾ by 25½in.


Nikolai & Olga Kiseleff, Helsinki
Nadine Topelius, Helsinki (daughter of the above)
Georg Topelius, Helsinki (son of the above)
Acquired by the previous owner from the above


Helsinki, Suomen Taideyhdistyksen näyttely, 1882, no. 47
Helsinki, Stenman Gallery, Helena Schjerfbeck 1879-1917, 1917, no. 60
Helsinki, Ateneum, Realismi Realismen, 1962, no. 163
Helsinki, Ateneum, Helene Schjerfbeck. Teemoja ja Muunnelmia, 1962, no. 15
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Målarinnor från Finland, 1981, no. 26
Helsinki, Ateneum; Tampere Art Museum; Turku Art Museum, Taiteilijattaria, 1981-82, no. 33/ 68
Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst; Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Seven Women Painters from Finland, 1983, no. 29
Helsinki, Ateneum, Helene Schjerfbeck, 1992, no. 59, illustrated
Åmot, Modums Blaafarvevaerk, To Malerinner, 1998, no. 53


H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter), Helene Schjerfbeck, Helsinki, 1953, p. 356, catalogued; p. 43, fig. 9, illustrated
Lea Bergström and Sue Cedercreutz-Suhonen, Helene Schjerfbeck: Malleja, Helsinki, 2003, fig. 3, illustrated


This condition report has been provided by Hamish Dewar, Hamish Dewar Ltd. Fine Art Conservation, 14 Masons Yard, Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6BU. Structural Condition The canvas is unlined on what would appear to be the original stretcher. There is an overall craquelure pattern with slight cupping between the lines of craquelure but the canvas is stable and it's obviously most encouraging to see the canvas in its original unlined state. Paint Surface There is a visible pattern of craquelure in the darker pigments which if found to be visually distracting could be inpainted. This is visible in the catalogue photo. These lines of craquelure are as a result of the natural drying process of the artist's materials. The varnish layers have obviously discoloured considerably and the overall appearance would be transformed by cleaning. The only retouchings visible under ultra-violet light are in the lower right corner on the framing sight edge. Summary The painting therefore appears to be in very good and stable condition with minimal intervention in the past and should respond extremely well to cleaning and revarnishing.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1882, Dancing Shoes is one of Helene Schjerfbeck's most popular and enduring images. As with her other favourite themes, most notably The Convalescent (fig. 1), she returned to the subject thoughout her life, in this case three times. The subject was so popular that Schjerfbeck was encouraged to reproduce it as a lithograph, which catapulted Dancing Shoes to international fame (fig. 2).

The sitter was Schjerfbeck's cousin, Esther Lupander. As Athela, Schjerfbeck's biographer, recalls, 'she [Esther] was once wearing a white bobbinet skirt and a black velvet jacket and was seated on a camp stool tying her shoe. Helene painted her like this with her hair covering her face. Esther had extremely long legs, and it was said about this picture that no child could have such long legs. "In that case, you haven't seen Esther Lupander," said Helene. Because of the long legs the picture was called The Grasshopper' (H. Ahtela, Helene Schjerfbeck, Helsinki, 1953, pp. 41-42).

The present work is the first, and prime, version of the subject. Painted in the Realist style, it clearly shows the influence of Schjerfbeck's time in Paris, where she had expressed her admiration for Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, and Mary Cassatt. The smaller, more sketchy version (fig. 3), also of 1882, was sold at Sotheby's in June 2003, as was the final, pared down version of 1939/40 (fig. 4) in March 1990.  

Schjerfbeck's sensibility as a painter of children, epitomised by Dancing Shoes and The Convalescent, has its roots in her own childhood. Solitary and shy by nature, as a young girl she suffered from a debilitating hip ailment, and The Convalescent is widely regarded as a symbolic self portrait. Similarly, the present work, exuding the joy and unselfconsciousness of a little girl, is perhaps a celebration of the joys of childhood Schjerfbeck herself was denied. 

Fig. 1, Helene Schjerfbeck, The Convalescent, 1888, oil on canvas, Helsinki, Ateneum

Fig. 2, Helene Schjerfbeck, Dancing Shoes, lithograph, two editions: état I 75 prints and état II 50 prints

Fig. 3, Helene Schjerfbeck, Dancing Shoes, sold: Sotheby's, London, 3 June 2003

Fig. 4, Helene Schjerfbeck, Dancing Shoes, 1939-40, sold: Sotheby's, London, 27 April 1990