Lot 42
  • 42

Paul Klee

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Paul Klee
  • Daemonische Marionetten (Demonic Puppets)
  • Signed Klee and titled daemonische marionetten (lower right) and dated 1929 n.8 (lower left), also numbered 51/171/2 on lower left of mount 
  • Gouache and pen on linen laid down on card
  • Composition: 14 1/2 by 9 7/8 in. 37 by 25 cm
  • Mount: 25 3/8 by 19 1/4 in. 64.5 by 49 cm


Rudolf Probst, Dresden (acquired in 1929)

Helmuth Domizlaff, Munich

Sale: Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, June 18, 1986, lot 394

Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired at the above sale)

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998


Munich, Haus der Kunst, Die Maler am Bauhaus, 1950, no. 141

Lucern, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Deutsche Kunst, Meisterwerke des 20. Jahrhunderts, 1953, no. 280, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Venice, Deutscher Pavillon, XXVII Biennale di Venezia, 1954, no. 27


The Paul Klee Foundation & Museum of Fine Arts, Bern, eds., Paul Klee Catalogue Raisonné, 1927-1930, vol.V, Bern, 1999, no. 4804, illustrated p. 283


Very good condition. The work is mounted on the artist's mount. The colors are fresh and vibrant. The mount is slightly time-stained and shows some tiny spots of foxing, which are not disturbing to the eye.
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

Specters emerging from the darkness are the subject of Klee's Bauhaus-period work from 1929. While the mask-like imagery rendered with punctuations of color on a stark black background may appear fierce, the subject of this composition is rooted in tenderness. Klee’s chosen theme alludes to his son Felix Klee and his affinity for puppet shows. 

Felix was first introduced to puppet theater at a very young age when Paul would bring him to the Auer Dult, a traditional flea market held in Munich twice a year. While Paul searched for painting supplies and frames, he left Felix to watch the Kasperl and Gretl (Punch and Judy) performances at the fair. These performances spawned a lifelong interest in puppeteering and storytelling in young Felix. For his ninth birthday in November 1916, Paul gifted Felix eight handcrafted puppets and a homemade theater. Many of the puppets unsurprisingly were characters from Felix’s favorite Kasperl and Gretl
production, including Kasperl, his wife Gretl, his friend Sepperl, Death, a
Devil, a Policeman and the Crocodile. Klee created approximately fifty puppets for Felix between 1916 and 1925 of which only thirty survive today. Felix’s practice of puppet theatre became the preliminary factor in his lifetime
profession as a theater director, and his childhood fascination with puppetry
provided his father with ample subject matter well into the 1920s and 1930s.

Felix’s passion for the theater was not only encouraged by his father Paul but also a shared hobby. Author Hatje Cantz writes, “Paul Klee’s rich artist
imagination is populated by puppets, masks and grotesque and bizarre figurines. Dream worlds, fairytale worlds, and theatrical worlds all become pictorial themes.  Actors, dancers, musicians, magicians, acrobats, ghosts, devils and witches come to life.  Klee opens up primordial and uncanny dimensions in the intermediary realms of fantasy and fairytale embodied in his images.  His formal ideas are motivated by the wishes and fears of children, the traces of his own childhood, during which he was constantly faced with conflicts between the permissible and the forbidden, between the concepts of, as Klee says, ‘good-evil.’ They inspire him to probe into secret and puzzling worlds.  The stage of life, its backdrops and arenas, the theater or theatrical, the dramaturgical and the staged – these all develop into metaphors for Paul Klee’s artist self-understanding” (Hatje Cantz, Paul Klee, Hand Puppets, Bern, 2010, p. 33).

The imagery of the present work held obvious delight for Klee’s artistically
inclined contemporaries including the artist Rudolf Probst (1883-1960). The
present work was later acquired by Helmuth Domizlaff (1902-1983), an antiquarian book dealer based in Munich.