Lot 65
  • 65

Chaïm Soutine

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
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  • Chaïm Soutine
  • La vieille dame assise
  • Signed C. Soutine (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 32 1/4 by 22 in.
  • 82 by 56 cm


Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Miestchaninoff, Paris & New York

M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York

Donald S. Stralem, New York (acquired from the above in 1959)

Acquired from the Estate of the above circa 1995


Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Chaim Soutine: 1893-1943, 1968, no. 42

Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Soutine, 1968, no. 26

Palm Springs Desert Museum, Collector's Choice, 1976

New York, Gallery Bellman, Soutine: 1893-1943, 1983-4, no. 16

New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990, on loan

New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991, on loan


Pierre Courthion, Soutine: Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, p. 235, illustrated pl. D and p. 264, pl. D

Maurice Tuchman, Esti Dunow, & Klaus Perls, Chaim Soutine (1893-1943): Catalogue Raisonné, Werkverzeichnis, vol. 2, Cologne, 1993, no. 72, illustrated p. 621


Good condition over all. The canvas is lined. Under UV, there is evidence of old retouching along the right framing edge. A network of craquelure extends throughout the surface of the canvas, most notably in the green background in the upper right and the lower left quadrant. There is also some cracking in the face, but the surface appears to be stable.
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

La vieille dame assise epitomizes Soutine's portraiture of the middle and late 1920s, characterized by a great expressiveness of pose, rhythmically charged brushstrokes and strong color contrasts. Regardless of the age, social status, or the artist's personal involvement with the sitter, Soutine's portraits are imbued with a strong physical presence, as well as with a uniqueness and individuality of his subjects. As the authors of the Catalogue raisonné of Soutine's work have commented: "While his portraits do convey inner realities and make spiritual statements, they are primarily rooted in concrete perception. Though Soutine may project his inner turbulence and most personal feelings onto his subjects, the viewer never loses sight of a particular physical entity being carefully observed and experienced. Even the distortions and exaggerations of facial features and the shiftings and dislocations of body parts do not destroy the essential recognition in each painting of a certain person and a reality specific to him or her" (M. Tuchman, E. Dunow & K. Perls, op. cit., p. 509).

Soutine's pictures, known for their textural bravura and focus on the sensual beauty of unusual subjects, astounded his contemporaries.  Whether portraits of the working class, depictions of local monuments, landscapes or dead animals, he was able to invest vernacular subjects with a raw beauty that set him apart from the rest of the avant-garde.  In the late 1920s, the art historian Élie Faure wrote a monograph on Soutine's work, in which he extolled the artist for the passion behind his paintings and the quasi-religious fervor that he felt they expressed.  Faure's analysis of these pictures, although grippingly poetic in its formal descriptions, met with much controversy and ultimately alienated the artist from that author.   Although his interpretations of these pictures are debatable, Faure provided a description of the artist that captures accurately the intensity of his character.  "If you saw him in the street," Faure wrote, "in the pouring rain, with his fugitive look, his hat pulled down over his eyes, his beautiful, small, pale hands, this Kalmouk's face with his straight hair covering his forehead, you would feel as if you were watching unfold the drama of the Magi pushing towards the star [of Bethlehem] in search of rest" (quoted in Norman L. Kleeblatt and Kenneth E. Silver, An Expressionist in Paris, The Paintings of Chaim Soutine (exhibition catalogue); The Jewish Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Cincinatti Art Museum, 1998-99, p. 34). 

The first owner of this picture was the sculptor and collector Oscar Miestchaninoff, who posed for several famous portraits by Modigliani and Soutine.