PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION, AUSTRIA
Growing up in a family of painters, von Blaas trained at the Academy of Venice where his father was an instructor, and revealed a ready aptitude for genre painting. Rather than selecting an excessive amount of props or portraying a complicated narrative, he created a tightly arranged series of compositions. Venetians are captured in evocations of their daily, often domestic, occupations, from laundry-day to knitting and shopping, while the present focuses on the rituals of grieving. Beginning in the late 1880’s, von Blaas began enlarging his canvas size, allowing life-sized or larger representations of his figures to give them a heroic and imposing presence (see, Lisa, 1889, 95 by 51 in., sold in these rooms April 20, 2005, lot 15 and The Fruit Seller, 1887, 71¼ by 43½ in., sold in these rooms April 25, 2006, lot 126). He does not complicate these monumental compositions, maintaining focus on a single figure or grouping. He treats the entire surface to a very high degree of finish, as seen in the varied draperies, floral studies and careful treatment of hands and faces in Semper Vivit Amor. The crumbling masonry of an old brick wall is a favorite pictorial motif, and it is used to great dramatic effect.
Von Blaas was deeply religious and his oeuvre is punctuated by a number of scenes that strike a more serious tone, such as Scattered Blossom (1871, Private Collection), Nun’s Visit (1883, Private Collection), and God’s Creatures (1913, sold in these rooms, April 18, 2007, lot 98). The present work can be traced to an undated sketch of a related composition, titled Frau mit Kindern (Thomas Wassibauer, Eugen von Blaas, Das Werk, Hildesheim, 2005, p. 149, no. 252, illustrated), as well as another painting of the little girl, dated 1894 (to be offered in The Gilded Age Revisited, Sotheby’s New York, February 2, 2019). All Souls Day has been a popular, albeit somber motif throughout art history, and von Blaas may have been inspired by William Bouguereau's poetic masterpiece, Le jour des morts (1859, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, fig. 1), when painting Semper Vivit Amor.
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