One of the earliest known hand-coloured impressions of a 20th century iconic image, Edvard Munchs Madonna, is being offered for sale at Bonhams
Print sale on 13 July 2010. It is estimated to fetch between £500,000 700,000.
The museum quality impression, which has never been seen in public, is signed and dated 1895, the year of its creation. The artist reworked his original concept several times between 1895 and 1902 and the image exists in seven distinct states. This print is from the very first state and is, arguably, the earliest hand-coloured impression. It shows the Madonna in yellow and white set against a halo of blue, green and red. The central figure is surrounded by a border containing spermatozoa and a foetus in a vivid blood red.
Munch was responsible for some of the most radical and experimental advances in printmaking and this impression dates from the time when he turned increasingly towards graphic art as a means of expression. Only a few hand-coloured impressions of Madonna are known to exist, most of which are now in public collections, and it is very rare for a print of such art historical importance to appear on the open market.
Although there are six oil paintings of Madonna - all predating the print - none of them have the border which made the lithographic image so challenging at the time. At least one of the paintings, however, was originally hung in a frame decorated with spermatozoa and embryos and these motifs Munch later included in the border of the lithograph.
This is a hugely significant work and in beautiful condition, said Robert Kennan, Bonhams Head of Prints. Munch returned to the Madonna time and again over a seven year period and it is fascinating to see this iconic image at its very earliest stage of its evolution as a print.
The work is being sold on behalf of the estate of the Abstract Expressionist artist Frank (Albert) Avray Wilson (1914 2009). It was formerly in the collection of Ivy Eckbo, Avray Wilsons wife and the adopted daughter of Eivind Eckbo, a highly regarded Norwegian businessman and philanthropist.
Eivind Eckbo owned several other lithographs by Munch and family legend has it that Madonna hung at his residence, the Villa Eckbo, located in Holmenkolen, Oslo until the late 1940s.