Eugen von Blaas | A MAIDEN WITH A BASKET OF ROSES
Eugen von Blaas
1843 - 1931
A MAIDEN WITH A BASKET OF ROSES
signed Eugen von Blaas and dated 1900 (lower left)
oil on panel
50 1/2 by 24 3/4 in.
128.3 by 62.9 cm
The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.:
This large work on panel is in very good condition. The panel shows three original supports running horizontally across the reverse. The panel is flat. There is no instability or evidence that the panel had ever become unstable. The work is clean and varnished. There are some areas that read quite strongly under ultraviolet light in the fringe of the white skirt; these may be retouches but it is unclear what they address. Elsewhere, there are retouches along a vertical crack in the panel in the upper right. There are a few retouches in the red brick in the center of the left side, and in the shadows of the red stocking on the left foot. In the figure, there are some retouches in her blue skirt, basket and arms. A couple of cracks in the back of her neck have been retouched, and there are a few small retouches in the side of her face, center of her forehead and to the left of her mouth. The work should be hung in its current state.
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Born in Albano, Italy to the painter Carl von Blaas (1815-1894), Eugen von Blaas was encouraged to pursue his artistic talents from a young age. Von Blaas studied in Venice, where he learned to copy models and casts of classical sculpture, occasionally returning to Austria to help his father paint frescoes for the Arsenal in Vienna. He eventually settled in Venice permanently after his marriage to Paola Prina, whose fortune allowed the couple to have a lively social life and a palazzo on the Zattere. Most celebrated for being a painter of Venetian beauties, von Blaas brought his beloved Venice to life by staging dynamic, colorful compositions against the backdrop of the historic city. As the artist's biographer Thomas Wassibauer describes, “[von Blaas] contrasted the decaying grandeur of old Venetian stone with fresh flowers and fruit… his young people live their lives within the old walls of a still-important city, and become links in an apparently endless chain of generations who carry on the Venetian traditions and way of life” (Wassibauer, p. 19). The artist spared no detail in his paintings, and his technical abilities are evident in his rendering of sumptuous fabrics and fresh flowers. To some degree his compositions are fantasies: von Blaas constructed a world that is frozen in time. His figures, who are dressed in timeless, traditional costume, gossip, flirt, explore and experience what Wassibauer calls “harmless joie de vivre,” all the while blissfully unaware that Venice will continue to crumble and age and modern nineteenth-century society will continue to propel ever forward (Wassibauer, p. 20)
By the 1880s, von Blaas had begun to enlarge his canvases and incorporate more complex details into his compositions, culminating in large-scale vertical paintings, such as the present lot, by the turn of the century. A Maiden with a Basket of Roses, dated 1900, is an impressive panel and an exceptional example of one of von Blaas’ trademark figures. The model is posed as if the viewer has stumbled upon this flower-seller just as she is about to disappear down one of old Venice’s many hidden passageways. Her expression is at once charmingly mischievous and mysterious; she is not just a static model but one who tells a story. Of the artist’s young Venetians, Wassibauer writes, “[von Blaas’] portraits… are structured in a way which is both narrative and playful: his Venetian women have a seductive or melancholy look, or may be bold and challenging” (Wassibauer p. 17).