Lot 148
  • 148

ROBERT RAFAILOVICH FALK | Greek Woman (Portrait of Inna Costakis)

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Greek Woman (Portrait of Inna Costakis)
  • signed in Cyrillic l.l.; further signed on the reverse and inscribed and dated 55 on the stretcher
  • oil on canvas
  • 73 by 59.5cm, 28 3/4 by 23 1/2 in.


The artist
Angelina Shchekin-Krotova, the artist's widow
Acquired from the above by George Costakis
Inna Costakis, the sitter and daughter of the above


Moscow, Vystavka proizvedenii Roberta Rafailovicha Fal'ka, 1958
Moscow, Vystavka proizvedenii R.R. Fal'ka, 1966
Moscow, State Tretyakov Gallery, Georgii Kostaki k 100-letiyu kollektsionera, 12 November 2014 - 8 February 2015, no.217


Exhibition catalogue Vystavka proizvedenii Roberta Rafailovicha Fal'ka, Moscow, 1958, illustrated
Exhibition catalogue Vystavka proizvedenii R.R. Fal'ka. Katalog, Moscow, 1966
D.Sarabianov and Yu.Didenko, Zhivopis' Roberta Fal'ka. Polnyi katalog proizvedenii, Moscow: Elysium Gallery, 2006, p.786, no.1184 illustrated
Exhibition catalogue Georgii Kostaki k 100-letiyu kollektsionera, Moscow: State Tretyakov Gallery, 2014, p.223 illustrated, p.411 listed


The canvas has been strip-lined. There are minor abrasions with associated paint loss along the edges. Some tiny scattered flecks of paint loss are visible to the sitter's head and in a few places elsewhere. Inspection under UV light reveals retouching to the right of the sitter's neck and a small area to the right of her left arm and along the bottom edge. There are a few very minor spots of retouching elsewhere. Held in a gold-painted frame. Unexamined out of frame.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Inna, the 20-year-old daughter of the renowned collector of Russian art, George Costakis, first met Falk in 1953 at her family apartment in Moscow, where the artist was a guest of her father’s. George Costakis and Falk had met due to Costakis’s interest in the avant-garde and the two had quickly become friends.Having taken up smoking, Inna would sneak out onto the fire escape of the apartment building so that her father wouldn’t catch her. Falk, however, was more perceptive, and realised what she was doing. Turning to her father, he said ‘I think that little Inna has become a grown-up girl. Why should she have to dash out and hide from you if she smokes?’ And so, as Inna herself later acknowledged, from that day forward she became a ‘grown-up girl’.

Costakis gave Falk permission to paint his daughter, and so, between the spring and autumn of 1955, Inna would go to his studio for sittings, always carrying bread rolls or coffee as a gift. It took Falk a while to decide how to compose the painting and he spent a long while sketching. One day, however, when Inna was sat by a window and the light was falling from above, he suddenly envisaged her as Aphrodite and the vision for his work was born.

Originally Falk had wanted to paint Inna full-length (the resulting painting, Young Woman in a Ball Gown, now hangs in the Brodsky Art Gallery in Berdyansk, Ukraine) but she began to feel ill from standing still for such long periods, and so the artist decided to paint her sitting down instead. Inna remembered Falk as being very engaging during her sittings, ‘very chatty, always asking questions’. Nevertheless, he refused to show her the work while it was in progress, and always kept it covered up until he had completed it.

Greek Woman (Portrait of Inna Costakis) appeared in an exhibition organised by the prolific Russian pianist, Sviatoslav Richter, at his apartment in 1957, as well as in two retrospective exhibitions of Falk’s works in 1958 and 1966 (both also in Moscow). Inna Costakis only received the painting in 1977, shortly before her emigration to Greece. The painting has remained in the possession of Inna’s family ever since, coming up for auction for the first time in this sale.