Lot 172
  • 172

Egon Schiele

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Egon Schiele
  • Schlafendes Paar (Sleeping couple)
  • signed with the artist's monogram and numbered 43 (lower right)
  • pencil on paper
  • 31.9 by 29.8cm., 12 5/8 by 11 3/4 in.


Karl Hayd (an artist and friend of Schiele)
Hedwig Hayd (by descent from the above in 1945)
Galerie Würthle, Vienna
Galerie Claire Fontaine, Luxembourg (until 2003)
Private Collection, Luxembourg (acquired from the above in 2003; sale: Im Kinsky, Vienna, 13th May 2014, lot 44)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Edgar Hertlein, 'Frühe Zeichnungen von Egon Schiele' in Alte und Moderne Kunst, Vienna, 1967, vol. XII, no. 95, p. 40
Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele, The Complete Works, New York 1990, no. 351, illustrated p. 387

Catalogue Note

Dating from a pivotal early period in Egon Schiele’s artistic development, Schlafendes Paar (Sleeping couple) exemplifies the striking simplicity and wonderful expressiveness that would define the artist’s best work. By 1909, Schiele had almost entirely ceased to attend classes at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, and was instead developing his own distinctive aesthetic. He had met Klimt at the Kunstschau the previous year and was intrigued by the older artist’s adaptation of the Jugendstil aesthetic. This influence is evident in the subject and composition of the present work which belongs to a small group of works that explore the theme of a pair of lovers, shown in various different guises – sleeping or embracing – an includes a pastel titled Der Kuss (The Kiss) that is both a homage to and pastiche of Klimt’s celebrated masterpiece.

In Schlafendes Paar (Sleeping couple) Schiele explores the two dimensional aesthetic of Jugendstil but transforms it with an expressive delicacy. He uses the single line of the blanket or sheet to separate background from foreground and imply a sense of depth, beginning an experimentation with a structured emptiness that was also particularly pertinent to his developments in painting at this time. Despite the striking simplicity of the composition, the arrangement of the two figures and the remarkable eloquence of their features imbue the work with feeling. As Jane Kallir writes: ‘Few artists in history have managed to express the spirit of their subject with such economy of means… With the precision of stop-action photography, Schiele could catch a moving body, or the flicker of emotion – a quivering lip, a furrowed brow – as it passed fleetingly across a sitter’s face… Because Schiele plumbed the very souls of his subjects, his drawings remain as fresh and vital today as they were when made. There is a timelessness to Schiele’s best work that speaks to the unchanging essence of humanity across time and space’ (Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele. Drawings & Watercolours, London, 2003, p. 442).