The European Art Sale

The European Art Sale

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 511. Portrait of an African Man.

Franz von Matsch

Portrait of an African Man

Lot Closed

October 25, 03:50 PM GMT


12,000 - 18,000 USD

Lot Details


Franz von Matsch


1861 - 1942

Portrait of an African Man

signed Matsch. F. (upper right)

oil on canvas

canvas: 25¾ by 21 in.; 65.4 by 53.3 cm

framed: 28¼ by 33¼ in.; 71.7 by 84 cm

Private Collection, Vienna, Austria
Shepherd Gallery, New York
Winthrop K. Edey, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Franz von Matsch met the brothers Gustav and Ernst Klimt during their studies at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna.  The trio shared a studio and by 1880 launched a business, the Künstler Compagnie (The Artist's Company), which was perfectly positioned to respond to the city’s economic boom and a surge in building construction. The artists began to receive commissions for the decoration of grand, private residences such as the Villa Hermes, which they decorated with scenes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1884-5), and public spaces, like the Burgtheater and its frescoes of the history of theater (1886) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, with forty paintings illustrating art history from ancient Egypt through the Renaissance (1890-1). 

The vibrant, intricate decorative campaigns demonstrated their academic training and the influence of Vienna’s most important artist of the era, Hans Makart, who made opulent, complex paintings from history, literature, and allegory.  While these commissions established the artists’ reputation and earned them accolades, in 1894 Matsch left the studio in part due to Gustav Klimt’s increasing disinterest with academic painting and turned to teaching at the Kunstgewerbeschule (Vienna School of Arts and Crafts). 

The present, enigmatic portrait aligns with Matsch’s bold and brilliant work still on display at the Burgtheater and Vienna’s museums; while it has yet to be determined when it was painted, the artist’s later turn to landscapes and still-lifes suggests it is more closely aligned with his earlier projects. Matsch’s subject commands the viewer’s eye and compels further study and appreciation of its artist.