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Christie's New York To Auction Picasso's Still Life
Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Portrait, 1906. (estimate: $2.5 – 3.5 million). © Christie's Images Ltd.

NEW YORK.- Picasso’s beautiful Still Life with Portrait, 1906 (estimate: $2.5 – 3.5 million), will be offered at Christie’s New York evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on 8 November 2006. The painting comes to auction following a settlement between the current owner, Duncan V. Phillips, grandson of the legendary collector, Duncan C. Phillips, founder of The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the heirs of its pre-World War II owner, Ernst Schlesinger, a collector from Hamburg.

“We are honored to offer this work by Picasso in our evening sale this November,” says Guy Bennett, Senior Vice President and Head of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art department in New York. “Works from the Gósol period are rarely seen at auction and as such, a number of passionate collectors will actively seek out works form this period.”

“We are delighted to offer the picture on behalf of Duncan V. Phillips and the heirs of Ernst Schlesinger,” says Monica Dugot, Senior Vice President and Christie's Director of Restitution. “In such restitution cases, we are committed to working closely with clients, museums, dealers and the claimant community as well as organizations that represent them in finding clarity on such issues and in helping to find solutions when these arise.”

Although not widely known, Still Life with Portrait is an exceptional Gósol period oil in which Picasso employed a soft rose and blue palette to create an allegory of his love for Fernande Olivier. Duncan C. Phillips gave the painting to his wife, Marjorie Acker Phillips, and it hung prominently in their dining room from 1952, its date of acquisition, until her death in 1985. According to a member of the family, Duncan C. Phillips would challenge dinner guests to name the artist of this large unsigned still life, providing clues until they could identify it as a Picasso.

Sarah Jackson, Research Director of the Art Loss Register says of the settlement: “The Phillips family has set a benchmark for other private collectors who unwittingly own works of art tainted by the Holocaust in its readiness to recognize the claim of the heirs of Ernst Schlesinger. The willingness of all sides to agree so swiftly to a settlement on a picture of this importance and without recourse to litigation is encouraging. The family of Ernst Schlesinger is grateful to Mr. Phillips for the way in which he responded to their claim on a picture that his family had owned in good faith for over fifty years.”

Duncan V. Phillips expresses his pleasure at being able to see the Schlesinger claim through to a satisfactory result without litigation: “This painting has been very important to me and to my family for more than five decades. Nonetheless, I would not want to benefit from it at the cost of another family’s suffering. Our settlement benefits all participants, and also allows the public to see at Christie’s a painting that my grandfather and grandmother loved and that I have treasured. I will be delighted to finally see this painting have a clean start in a new home.”

This settlement, negotiated between the Art Loss Register on behalf of the heirs of Ernst Schlesinger and Thomas R. Kline of Andrews Kurth LLP on behalf of Mr. Phillips, is the culmination of five years of provenance research across eleven countries conducted by the Art Loss Register for the Schlesingers and Marion F. Houstoun, an art historian who conducted research on Mr. Phillips’ behalf.

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