Property Restituted to the Heirs of Ralph von Klemperer
THE MASTER OF THE FEMALE HALF-LENGTHS
(Active in Antwerp during the first half of the 16th Century)
A YOUNG LADY PLAYING A LUTE
oil on oak panel
14⅝ by 9⅞ in.; 37.2 by 25.2 cm.
The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's:
Master of the Female Half Lengths. A Young Lady Playing the Lute.
This painting is on a fine, and apparently perfectly stable, oak panel. A few minor old surface retouchings can be seen down the grain of the wood in the background, with some tiny dark vertical lines in the deep green table cloth, which is otherwise finely intact with copper resinate glazing.
Elsewhere throughout the exquisite condition is evident, across the rich velvet drapery and in the minute detail of the jar of ointment, the minuscule curls up the side of the face and the precision of the fingers placed on the cords of the lute, as well as the musical manuscript with the words ' J'aime mon mari trop '. The perfectly preserved gloves are presumably also symbolic.
Under ultra violet light one or two tiny touches can be seen, one on her shoulder and on the lute, with a little touch on the top of her head and by her the lower left edge of her cheek, with one older touch on her nose. There may have been very faint wear just below the nose and at the far left of the jaw. These are minor imperfections however in a painting which has clearly always remained in exceptionally beautiful condition.
This report was not done under laboratory condition.
"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."
Baron von der Ropp, Schadow Castle, Courland;
His sale, Cologne, Heberle, 11 November 1890, lot 41 (as by Hans Sebald Lautensack);
Consul Eduard F. Weber (1830–1907), Galerie Weber, Hamburg;
His deceased sale (Galerie Weber), Berlin, Lepke, 20 February 1912, lot 96 (as the Master of the Female Half-lengths), for 13.500 marks to Gustav von Klemperer;
Ralph von Klemperer (1884–1956), Dresden, by 1934 and until 1937;
Acquired by the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn in 1937 (inv. no. 37.168);
Transferred by the Allies to the Depot Homburg (inv. no. Ho 41) in 1945;
Transferred from the above to the Marburg Central Collecting Point (inv. no. Mar 690) in 1945;
Transferred from the above to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point on 11 June 1945;
Returned to the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn on the 11 June 1946 (inv. no. 37.168);
Restituted by the above to the Von Klemperer heirs in 2018.
Düsseldorf, Kunsthistorische, Die Kunsthistorische Ausstellung zu Düsseldorf im Jahre 1904: Meisterwerke westdeutscher Malerei und andere hervorragende Gemälde alter Meister aus Privatbesitz, August 1904, no. 180 (as follower of the Master of the Female Half-lengths).
F. Wickhoff, 'Die Bilder Weiblicher Halbfiguren aus der zeit und umgebung Franz I. von Frankreich', Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, vol. XXII, 1901, pp. 226 and 228 (as the Master of the Female Half-lengths);
E. Firmenich-Richartz, Kunsthistorische Ausstellung Düsseldorf 1904: Katalog, exhibition catatalogue, Düsseldorf 1904, p. 81, cat. no. 180 (as follower of the Master of the Female Half-lengths);
K. Woermann, Wissenschaftl. Verzeichnis der älteren Gemälde der Galerie Weber in Hamburg, Dresden 1907, p. 47, cat. no. 96, reproduced plate 33 (as follower of the Master of the Female Half-lengths);
D. Heartz, 'Mary Magdalen, Lutenist', in Journal of the Lute Society of America, Inc., vol. V, 1972, p. 57, reproduced plate A (as the Master of the Female Half-lengths);
M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, Leiden 1975, p. 100, cat. no. 102, reproduced plate 44 (as the Master of the Female Half-lengths);
F. Goldkuhle, I. Krueger and H.M. Schmidt, Gemälde bis 1900, Cologne 1982, pp. 339–340, reproduced p. 341 (as follower of the Master of the Female Half-lengths);
H.F. Schweers, Paintings in German Museums. Catalogue of Works on Exhibition in the Federal Republic of Germany, London 1982, p. 637 (as the Master of the Female Half-lengths).
The engaging subject of this work is entirely typical of this master, who repeated compositional formulae with minor variations when creating these small-scale panels of elegant women reading, writing or making music in intimate interiors; in this work, we have the added detail of the figure’s removed gloves, which she has placed on the table before her in readiness for the recital. An ointment jar, the attribute of the Magdalene, is also visible, which combined with the musical theme serves to emphasise the underlying vanitas meaning of the subject – the transience of earthly pleasures and beauty.
The Master of the Female Half-lengths was named by Friedländer after a painting in the Harrach Collection in Schloss Rohrau, Austria which depicts three young women singing and playing musical instruments . Believed to be by one of the most successful and popular artists working in Antwerp in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, the group of works traditionally given to the Master of the Female Half-lengths is now regarded to be in large part the product of a workshop, specializing particularly in half-length depictions of the Magdalene and elegantly dressed young ladies painted in a courtly style. In temperament and taste the works of the Master of the Female Half-lengths reflect the influence of Bruges painters such as Adriaen Isenbrandt or Ambrosius Benson as well as those in Brussels such as Bernard van Orley, but he is most generally thought to have worked in Antwerp. In all, over a hundred works in all forms are ascribed to him or, more correctly, his workshop, demonstrating that they satisfied a significant niche among contemporary buyers (see also lot 21 in this sale). Their charm and the technical skill they often display, of which the present work is a fine example, account for their approval at the time, as well their continued appeal today.
1 See M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, Leiden 1975, p. 100, no. 106, reproduced plate 45.