Lot 31
  • 31

Vilhelm Hammershøi

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Vilhelm Hammershøi
  • Interior with Two Candles
  • signed with initials V.H. lower right
  • oil on canvas
  • 67.5 by 54cm., 26½ by 21¼in.


Carl Robert Lamm, Näsby Castle near Stockholm (1856-1938; inventor, industrialist and collector, Lamm was an important patron of contemporary Scandinavian artists including Hammershøi and Carl Larsson)
Acquired by the parents-in-law of the present owner; thence by descent circa 1950


Copenhagen, Forum, Det danske Kunststævne, 1929, no. 57
Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art, Vilhelm Hammershøi: The Poetry of Silence, 2008, no. 78, illustrated in the catalogue


Alfred Bramsen & Sophus Michaëlis, Vilhelm Hammershøi. Kunstneren og hans værk, Copenhagen & Christiania, 1918, p. 102, no. 259, catalogued and discussed
Susanne Meyer-Abich, Vilhelm Hammershøi: Das malerische Werk, PhD thesis, Ruhr-Universität, Bochum, 1996, no. 247


The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd., of 13 & 14 Mason's Yard, London SW1Y 6BU: UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition The canvas is unlined on the original keyed wooden stretcher, which is ensuring an even and secure structural support. Paint surface The paint surface has a rather uneven varnish layer. Small discoloured retouchings are visible on the paint surface, the most noticeable of which is a small area on the door, just beneath the door handle. This measures approximately 2 x 1 cm. The paint surface fluoresces unevenly under ultraviolet light as is so often the case with oil paintings by Hammershoi. There would seem to be lines and small dots of retouching on and around the door and door frame and other small scattered spots of inpainting. There are other areas that fluoresce more faintly under ultraviolet light and I am assuming are the artist's reworkings rather than later retouchings. The largest such area is on the floor just above the lower horizontal framing edge. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in good and stable condition and would benefit from cleaning and revarnishing to remove small, discoloured retouchings and ensure a more even surface coating.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1904, the present work depicts the artist's home in Strandgade 30, one of Hammershøi's most frequently painted and iconic subjects. Interior with Two Candles anticipates Møntsamleren (The Coin Collector) (fig. 1) also executed in 1904 and now housed in the Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo, which depicts the same room with a young man, modelled by the artist's younger brother Svend, examining a coin by the light of two burning candles. It is, however, the disappearance of physical human presence, alluded to by the burning candles, that embues the present work with an acutely haunting sense of lingering. As Hammershøi commented in 1907 on the subject of painting vacant rooms, 'I have always thought there was such beauty about a room like that, even though there weren't any people in it, perhaps precisely when there weren't any' (quoted in Vilhelm Hammershøi: The Poetry of Silence, exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2008, p. 23).

Interior with Two Candles illustrates Hammershøi's remarkable ability to capture an ambience of timelessness and introspective solitude, his observation of the etheral candlelight against the geometric forms and sharp angles of the apartment adding to the powerful effect. The sense of seclusion and introspection in Hammershøi's paintings is central to Symbolism, of which Hammershøi is now regarded as a leading exponent. In his observation of light and space he was influenced by James McNeill Whistler, whose work he first saw when exhibiting two of his own paintings at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. Hammershøi's influence, in turn, can be felt in the works of later artists, including Edward Hopper, Ida Lorentzen and Gerhard Richter (fig. 2).