Lot 25
  • 25

František Foltýn

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Franti�ek Folt�n
  • Blue Madonna
  • signed FOLTYN lower right
  • oil on canvas
  • 110 by 101cm., 43¼ by 39¾in.


Milan Heidenreich, Gothenburg (prominent collector of Czech modern art; a large part of his collection was sold by Sotheby's London in 1997 & 1998)
Purchased from the above in the early 1990s by the present owner


Passau, Museum Moderner Kunst; Salzburg, Salzburger Landessammlung Rupertinum; Graz, Kulturhaus der Stadt Graz, Tschechischer Kubismus: Emil Filla und Zeitgenossen, 1991


Jiři Hlušička, Oskar Kokoschka, Gerwald Sonnenberg, Tschechischer Kubismus: Emil Filla und Zeitgenossen, Gothenburg, 1991, p. 193, illustrated


The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd., 13 and 14 Mason's Yard, St James', London, SW1Y 6BU: UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition The canvas has been wax lined and is securely attached to a keyed wooden stretcher. The stretcher would appear to be contemporary to the lining process. This is ensuring a stable structural support. There is as a small pin hole on the upper centre of the right edge. Paint Surface The paint surface has a relatively even varnish layer. There are various historic scattered crease lines, most notably within the sky and the upper part of the Madonna's garments. These are stable and appear to have been successfully consolidated by the lining process. There are a few very minor paint losses including within the mountains to the right of the Madonna's face, and a small, intermittent horizontal line of paint losses above her feet. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows a discoloured and opaque varnish layer which prevents the ultra-violet light from fully penetrating. Inspection under ultra-violet light also shows scattered retouchings, the most significant of which are: 1) scattered retouchings within the sky, many of which correspond to the historic crease lines mentioned above, 2) scattered retouchings within the Madonna's garments and a thin horizontal line of retouching running through her forehead, 3) two small spots of retouching within the signature in the lower right corner of the composition, and 4) several retouchings within the landscape. Other retouchings are also visible and due to the discoloured and opaque varnish layers it is difficult to fully ascertain the extent of any previous restoration work. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in relatively good and stable condition having undergone restoration work in the past. The materials and techniques appear consistent with a work from the 1920's.
"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 between 1922 to 1924, the year of his arrival in Paris, Blue Madonna is an exquisite example of Foltýn’s cubist phase and an homage to his native land.

Framed by the distant Šumava Mountains and the wooded hills near the town of Stachy in southern Bohemia, Foltýn’s birthplace, a mother stands holding her baby. The vivid blue of the three triangular mountains and of the woman’s dress, and the classical composition are clear references to the catholic iconography of Virgin with Child and evoke depictions of the Madonna and Child by Raphael and other Renaissance masters. However, in all her simplicity, Foltýn’s Madonna defies any concept of perfect beauty. In fact, the title of a related work in the collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Slovenska madona (fig. 1), suggests the artist might have been searching for a more universal and patriotic meaning, where the Madonna comes to symbolise the Slavic spirit.

The vivid blues and energetic staccato brushworks are typical of Foltýn’s works from this period, and in style and execution Blue Madonna closely relates to Foltýn’s self-portrait of 1922 (fig. 2), and Raskolnikov of 1922 (fig. 3).

It was not uncommon for Foltýn to elaborate on a theme and to rework important compositions. For example, there are two known versions of his portrait of Dostojevsky, and two versions of Imperialism of 1925. His self-portrait of 1922 reappears in his portrait of Raskolnikov, while the Madonna's blue folds echo those in the portraits of Raskolnikov and Dostojevski, and in Foltýn's own self-portrait. This element of repetition and elaboration continued throughout Foltýn’s oeuvre and is also evident in his later landscapes and abstract works.

In contrast to the unsigned Slovenska Madona in the Moravian Gallery in Brno, the present work is both signed and markedly more Cubist in conception, the angular and geometrical shapes heightened by the staccato brushstrokes. This is notably visible in the drapery, the sky and the depiction of the landscape, which also harks back to earlier depictions of Mukačevo, Rybník and Horska Vesnice from 1922. This would suggest that Blue Madonna is the culmination of Foltýn's developing thoughts on, and ambitions for, this composition.