Lot 14
  • 14

Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • Diego Rivera
  • Naturaleza Muerta en óvalo
  • oil on canvas
  • 29 by 24 in.
  • 73.7 by 61 cm
  • Painted circa 1915-16.


Mr. and Mrs. Enrique Freyman, Paris (acquired from the artist)
Private Collection, Switzerland
Sale: Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, Diego Rivera, twenty-seven Paintings of the Period 1909-1917, October 28, 1959, lot 18, illustrated
The Collections of Mildred, Albert and Leslie Otten
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Latin American Art, May 29, 2002, lot 9, illustrated in color


Portland, Portland Museum of Art, A Passion for Art: The Albert Otten Collection, October 9, 1987-January 3, 1988, no. 59, p. 12, illustrated
Portland, Portland Museum of Art (on extended loan, 1993-2002)


Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Diego Rivera, Catálogo General de Obra de Caballete, Mexico City, 1989, p. 31, no. 179, illustrated


(This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Conservation, Inc.) This painting has been recently restored and could be hung as is. The canvas is not lined; it may have been lined in the past but this lining has been safely removed and only the tacking edges have reinforcements to allow for proper stretching. The paint layer has been restored and seems to be in lovely condition. Under ultraviolet light there is one restoration visible in the specked background towards the left edge in the upper left corner, addressing a small paint loss measuring approximately ¼ inch square. Elsewhere there are no retouches. The unique background technique is as it was originally conceived by the artist. There is possibly a very slight patina on the paint layer itself, but it has been beautifully cleaned. Some of these colors, the yellows and the oranges for instance, are susceptible to over-cleaning, yet none of this has taken place here. The condition is impressive. The structural restoration has been well handled and the picture should be hung as is.
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.

Catalogue Note

Diego Rivera is perceived as being a master of figuration and one of the leading lights of the Mexican Muralist movement, but it is often forgotten that he was one of the earliest pioneers of abstraction, both in Europe and Latin America.

Rivera left Mexico in 1907 at the age of 21 for Madrid and then moved to Paris in 1909. Once in Paris he began by sharing a studio with Marie Blanchard. He soon became a very active part of the Montparnasse art scene, counting amongst his friends fellow Spanish speakers Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris. Close friendships also developed with Amadeo Modigliani, Jacques Lipchitz and Ilya Ehrenberg as attested by the portraits they did of each other.

While in Paris, Rivera had a dazzling cubist period from 1912 through 1917. Naturaleza Muerta en Óvalo is one of the works from this period where Rivera experimented with trompe l'oeil techniques as did Picasso and Gris to obtain the faux texture of cork in the brown areas around the oval form containing the still life. The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. held a wonderful exhibition of Rivera's cubist works in 2004.

Bertram Wolfe, Rivera's friend and biographer noted "during 1915 and much of 1916 he (Rivera) carried his experiments with the technical resources of his craft even further, painting with wax instead of oil, on pressed cork using plaster stucco and contrast of textures . He did still lives of bottles and fruits, all rounded curves and circles of color".i

Naturaleza Muerta en Óvalo (Still Life with Oval)  was originally in the collection of Enrique Freyman, the Mexican cultural attaché in Paris in the 1910's who was one of Rivera's most fervent admirers and whose collection of twenty seven paintings by Rivera were sold in these rooms in a memorable 1959 sale.

[i] Wolfe, Bertram D., The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera, New York: Cooper Square Press (1963)