Lot 34
  • 34

Vilhelm Hammershøi

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
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  • Vilhelm Hammershøi
  • Interior with a Mirror
  • signed with initials lower right
  • oil on canvas
  • 72 by 58cm., 28¼ by 22¾in.


Christa Petersen (sale: Bruun Rasmussen, Copenhagen, May 1969, lot 17)
Peter Olufsen & Kamma Ilsted (purchased at the above sale; Kamma was a daughter of painter Peder Ilsted, and the niece of Ida Hammershøi, née Ilsted)
Ingeborg Malene Olufsen (by descent from the above, her parents)
Private collection (acquired circa 1985; sale: Christie's, London, 29 March 1990, lot 78)
Purchased at the above sale by the parents of the present owner


Copenhagen, Ordrupgaard, Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1981, no. 120, illustrated in the catalogue


Poul Vad, Hammershøi. Værk og liv, Copenhagen, 1988, p. 366, illustrated


The following condition report has been provided by Hamish Dewar Ltd, 13 & 14 Mason's Yard, London SW1Y 6BU: UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and the turnover and tacking edges have been strengthened with a thin strip-lining. The stretcher would certainly appear to be the original keyed wooden stretcher which has wooden corner plates on the reverse. There are traces of paint on the reverse of the canvas. The structural condition is sound and secure. Paint surface The paint surface has an even varnish layer. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows small scattered retouchings along the lower horizontal framing edge and on the lower left vertical framing edge. There are other areas that fluoresce unevenly, particularly on the back wall and floor as seen through the doorway, but not in a manner consistent with retouching and I am confident that these are the artist's glazes rather than later retouching. This type of fluorescence is characteristic of the artist. There is a very slight craquelure pattern in the darker pigments of the table in the lower right which are entirely stable and are not visually distracting. There is also a tiny paint loss just above the lower horizontal framing edge in the lower left corner. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition and no further work is required.
"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 circa 1907 in the artist's home at Strandgade 30, an address that played a critical role in the development of the painter's singular aesthetic, Interior with Mirror epitomises Hammershøi’s atmospheric interiors, imbued with calm and mystery. Hammershøi and his wife Ida moved into the apartment in 1898 and would remain there until 1909. The present view is from the dining room into the drawing room, both spaces filled with indirect light from the street-facing windows on the left. The rooms at Strandgade 30 served Hammershøi as a stage of infinite possibility, and the two rooms in Interior with Mirror reappear in his oeuvre time and again, with or without his wife Ida, and the furniture and wall hangings rearranged.

With its geometric spaces, tonal harmonies, and soft light, the overall effect is that of a symphony of line and light. Describing what inspired him most in the subjects that he drew on, Hammershøi commented: 'What makes me choose a motif, is in the first instance the lines, what I call the architectonic structure of the painting. And then the light, obviously. The light counts for a lot, but it is the lines that I like most. The colour is subordinated, I am not indifferent to the effects of colour, indeed I work hard at their harmonisation. But when I choose a motif, it seems to me that above all it is the lines that guide me' (quoted in L'univers poétique de Vilhelm Hammershøi, exh. cat. Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen & Paris, 1997, p. 28). And yet here the stark linearity is set into relief by the curved forms of the mirror, the drop leaf table, and the quarter roundels in the panelling adding another dimension to the composition.

The painting finds parallels both in the art of the past and in the work of Hammershøi’s contemporaries. Hammershøi's subtle use of light, muted tones and choice of subject are indebted to the Dutch seventeenth-century master Johannes Vermeer. Both artists favoured the setting of a simple room with an indirect light source. Hammershøi travelled to Holland in 1887 where he would have seen Vermeer's works first-hand. But the grey palette and sense of solitude also bear striking similarities to the works of contemporary artists Hammershøi admired, notably James McNeill Whistler. Hammershøi was deeply influenced by the American artist with whom he first exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. Both artists distilled the painting of empty rooms to its very essence, the limited tonal range further tempering any narrative. Hammershøi's influence, in turn, can be felt in the works of later artists, including Edward Hopper, Ida Lorentzen and Gerhard Richter.