S otheby’s is pleased to present the January European Works of Art Sale Part II. Anchored by Barbizon, Belle Epoque, and Pre-Raphaelite paintings, sculpture, and works on paper, the auction also includes a group of works by Czech artists Vaclav Brožík, Max Pirner, and Luisa Max-Ehrler, as well as a defining self-portrait by Belgian Symbolist painter Suzanne Fabry. A selection of works on paper from the Collection of Seymour Stein includes exquisite drawings, watercolors and pastels by Edward Burne-Jones, Simeon Solomon, Evelyn de Morgan, Jean-Francois Millet, Georges Jules Victor Clairin, and Aubrey Beardsley.
Vaclav Brozik’s Portrait Study for Tu Felix Austria, Nube! in Focus
Vaclav Brožík was one of the leading official painters of Austria-Hungary, and together with Alphonse Mucha probably the most celebrated Bohemian artist working in Europe during the last quarter of the 19th Century. Best known for his history paintings, Brožík enhanced the role of Czech painting as part of a national culture striving for greater political self-affirmation. He always saw his work in a Czech context, and was inspired by fellow Central European artists, such as Gabriel von Max, Karl Theodor von Piloty and Mihály Munkácsy.
This portrait study of a young girl with chestnut hair is a study for the Archduchess Maria Habsburg, featured in Brožík’s monumental patriotic picture, Tu Felix Austria, Nube!, commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph I to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of his reign in 1898. The painting illustrates the strategic joining of the Jagiellonian and Habsburg dynasties in 1515 through the betrothal of ten-year-old Louis (Ludvik) Jagiello, son of the Czech King Ladislaus (Vladislav) Jagiello, to the slightly older Maria Habsburg, daughter of the Spanish King Phillip and grand-daughter of Emperor Maximilian I, pictured in the final canvas wearing a flower crown. The marriage marked the birth of the Central European Habsburg monarchy and the subject, taken from Czech historian and politician František Palacký and chosen by historian W. W. Tomek, was selected to remind audiences of Austria’s peaceful positioning. The monumental painting was so pleasing to the Emperor that he elevated Brožík to the Austrian aristocracy, another great honor having been already awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'Honneur, the highest order of merit–both military and civilian–in France.
Female Nudes by the Sea is an important rediscovery within the oeuvre of Suzanne Fabry, one of the foremost Belgian Symbolist painters of the 20th century. Fabry perfected her own brand of pointillism in this nearly life-size multi-figure self-portrait, painted in 1943, and adapted the solidity, scale, and style favored by the painters of the “L’art monumental” generation, founded by her father, Émile Fabry (1865-1966), to a defiantly feminine modern subject–herself. This extraordinary square painting, in which Fabry audaciously contends with her artistic heritage and asserts her own distinctive identity and aesthetic, ranks among the artist’s most significant compositions and is fresh to the market.
Seymour Stein, entrepreneur and co-founder of Sire Records, is best known for working with famed musicians such as Madonna, Talking Heads, and the Ramones. An avid collector across fine and decorative arts, the selection presented for sale highlights drawings, watercolors, pastels, and paintings by leading 19th- and 20th-century European and British artists.