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.
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