Lot 27
  • 27

Egon Schiele

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
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  • Egon Schiele
  • Weiblicher Rückenakt (Fragment), (Female Nude Seen from the Back - Fragment)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 75 5/8 by 20 5/8 in.
  • 192 by 52.5 cm


Benedikt Fred Dolbin (né Pollack, also known as Ben Bindol), Vienna, Berlin & New York (acquired by 1925)

Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York (acquired from the above after 1966)

Hans Dichand, Vienna (acquired from the above before 1977)

Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York (acquired from the above)

Saul Steinberg, New York (after November 1979)

Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York


Vienna, Galerie Würthle, Egon Schiele, 1925-26, no. 38 or 39

Vienna, Secession, CI. Ausstellung der Vereinigung bildender Künstler, 1928, no. 176 or 178

Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art; New York, Galerie St. Etienne; Louisville, J.B. Speed Art Museum; Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute & Minneapolis, Institute of Arts, Egon Schiele, 1960-61, no. 36

New York, Serge Sabarsky Gallery, Expressionists, 1972-73, no. 62, illustrated in the catalogue

New Orleans, Museum of Art, German and Austrian Expressionism, 1975-76, no. 9

Vienna, Galerie Würthle, Egon Schiele, 1977, no. 5

Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art, Egon Schiele, 1979, no. 48, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Rome, Pinacoteca Capitolina & Venice, Museo d'Arte Moderna Ca' Pesaro, Egon Schiele, 1984, no. 21, illustrated in color in the catalogue

New York, Serge Sabarsky Gallery, Egon Schiele: An Exhibition of 17 Paintings, 1985, no. 15, illustrated in the catalogue

Tokyo, Isetan Museum; Aichi, Prefectural Museum of Art; Nara, Prefectural Museum of Art; Yamanashi, Prefectural Museum of Art & Kamakura, Museum of Modern Art, Egon Schiele und Wien zur Jahrhundertwende, 1986, no. 23, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Charleroi, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Egon Schiele, 1987, no. 72, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Schiele, 1995, no. 33, illustrated in color in the catalogue

New York, Neue Galerie, Egon Schiele: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections, 2005-06, no. P14, illustrated in color in the catalogue

New York, Neue Galerie, From Klimt to Klee: Masterworks from the Serge Sabarsky Collection, 2009-10, no. 35, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Otto Nirenstein, Egon Schiele: Persönlichkeit und Werk, Vienna, 1930, no. 136

Otto Kallir, Egon Schiele, Oeuvre-Katalog der Gemälde, Vienna, 1966, no. 179, illustrated p. 357

Rudolf Leopold, Egon Schiele: Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings, London, 1972, no. 238, illustrated p. 686

Gianfranco Malafarina, L'opera di Schiele, Milan, 1982, no. 256, illustrated p. 107

Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele, The Complete Works, New York, 1998, no. 256, illustrated p. 318


The canvas is relined. Under UV there are some retouchings along all four edges, some specks of retouching throughout the composition, two thin lines to the right of the woman's right knee and ankle, and an area in the lower left corner. Otherwise this work is in good condition.
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

Female Nude Seen from the Back was originally a section of a mural-scaled composition initially titled Bekehrung (Conversion), a monumental canvas on which Schiele was working in 1913.  While the entire work was never fully realized, several individually framed sections of the initial composition survive, including the 'sister-painting' to the present work, Female Nude with Shawl, Back View (fig. 1), displaying the same elongated format.  Schiele himself referred to the monumental canvas as Bekehrung, Versuch für eine Wandmalerei, indicating that he envisaged it as a trial for a wall-painting.  The earthy, monochromatic palette of the present work certainly enhance its fresco-like appearance.  This life-size depiction of a female nude initially formed part of a larger group of figures, male and female, nude and clothed, conceived as an allegory of the human condition, a theme that preoccupied Schiele during this period.
Painted in 1913, Female Nude Seen from the Back (Fragment) epitomizes a major change that occurred in Schiele's painting at that time.  It was at the beginning of the year that he abandoned painting on small wood panels, which until then served as his primary support.  It was also around this time that Schiele's growing confidence as a painter allowed him to adopt a much larger, more ambitious and often monumental scale for his works, as he started painting almost exclusively on canvas.  Otto Benesch, whose father, Heinrich Benesch , was one of Schiele's early patrons and collectors, wrote about Conversion, the mural for which the present work was conceived as follows: 'It was the largest canvas he ever handled. A group of about twelve loosely connected figures in standing and moving positions, almost life-size and seen from above, filled the picture.  The figures were invented but had received their impulse from real life. Friends, people close to Schiele, could be distinguished. One recognized Klimt, my father, and in the features of a boy I found myself.  All of them were wearing long habits, like monks.  There were also nude female figures seen from the back.  These have survived as fragments' (O. Benesch, quoted in R. Leopold, op. cit., p. 613).
The monumental painting was intended for Carl Reininghaus, who was an industrialist and one of the most important early patrons and collectors of Schiele's work, as well as a model for several watercolor portraits by the artist executed in 1910.  Reininghaus had agreed to the purchase the oil while Schiele was still working on it, expecting it to be finished in the autumn.  During the summer of 1913, the artist and his patron exchanged several letters in which they discussed the progress of the work.  In a letter to Reininghaus of June 1913, Schiele wrote: 'You will remember the new picture with the marchers and the prophets – Conversion.  It measures 200 x 300 cm. and I recall that you liked this picture best. [...]  I regard it as one of the best I have ever done and, quite apart from this, it would give me pleasure to see a mature and significant work of mine, which I know to be good and inspired by the deepest feelings, in your gallery' (quoted in ibid., p. 612).
In its style and subject matter, the present work is closely related to another large-scale canvas of the same year, Encounter (Self-Portrait with Saint) (fig. 2), which also remained unfinished.  Originally in the collection of Carl Reininghaus, this work is now presumed lost. Of the three major paintings undertaken in 1913, Schiele only completed one – Resurrection (fig. 3), now also lost.  Judging from the preparatory drawings, a number of which are related to either Conversion or Encounter, Schiele spent the latter part of 1913 working on the two monumental canvases.  As Jane Kallir commented: 'Conversion and Encounter appear to be attempts to translate the Hodleresque "Parallelism" of Schiele's landscapes into figural terms.  Vertical bodies are placed against a broad background divided in two by the horizon line, and the chief overriding structure is provided by the tactile qualities of the paint itself: thin veils of color incorporated in a refractive geometric pattern.  The plan is certainly ambitious for an artist who has heretofore been most successful when working on a small scale... the unfinished paintings Conversion and Encounter serve as the linchpins of his entire oeuvre, the point of departure for all the later allegories' (J. Kallir, op. cit., p. 316).




Fig. 1, Egon Schiele, Weiblicher Rückenakt mit Schultertuch – Fragment (Female Nude with Shawl, Back View – Fragment), 1913, oil on canvas, Leopold Museum, Vienna

Fig. 2, Egon Schiele in front of his painting Begegnung – Selbstbildnis mit der Figur eines Heilingen (Encounter – Self-Portrait with Saint), 1913, oil on canvas, whereabouts unknown. Photograph by Anton Joseph Trcka

Fig. 3, Egon Schiele, Auferstehung (Resurrection), 1913, oil on canvas, present whereabouts unknown