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Sotheby's to Sell Rediscovered Work by Vilhelm Hammershoi, A Study for The Coin Collector in Oslo Museum
Svend Hammershøi, Study for the Coin Collector. Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby's Scandinavian Sale on Tuesday, 22 November 2011, will present for sale an important rediscovered work by Vilhelm Hammershøi. Svend Hammershøi. Forarbejde til Møntsamleren (Svend Hammershøi. Study for the Coin Collector) is a preparatory study for the artist’s 1904 masterpiece Møntsamleren (The Coin Collector), in the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, and is being offered by a Danish private collector.

The sitter was the artist's younger brother Svend, a painter and ceramicist. One of only three known studies for the Oslo painting, and the only study to feature the figure, the work offers a fascinating insight into the artist’s working methods, while at the same time evoking the distinctive sense of seclusion and introspection that characterises Hammershøi’s work. The painting is estimated at £30,000 – 50,000. Hammershøi rarely painted strangers or accepted commissions, his choice of his brother as the central focus for Møntsamleren reflecting his preference for using his close friends and family as his models.

As well as being the focus of the present study and the finished oil in Oslo, Svend plays a leading role in three other iconic oils by Hammershøi across Scandinavia: Interior with a Young Man reading of 1898 (Hirschprungske Samling, Copenhagen); Five Portraits of 1901-02 (Thielska Gallery, Stockholm) in which Svend sits with the architect Thorvald Bindesbøl, the art historian Karl Madsen, and fellow painters J. F. Willumsen and Carl Holsøe; and Evening in the Drawing Room of 1904 (Statens Museum fur Kunst, Copenhagen) with Bindesbøl, Heinrich Madsen, and Ida Hammershøi.

Testament to the close bond between the two brothers is one of Vilhelm’s earliest known works, the portrait of Svend aged eight, which Vilhelm painted at the age of seventeen. The work now hangs in the Hirschsprungske Samling, Copenhagen, along with Interior with a Young Man Reading, in which an adult Svend stands against a wall. As in Møntsamleren, Svend emerges from shadow, looking not at the viewer but down and to the left, absorbed in his book. In Møntsamleren, Vilhelm placed Svend at his own home on Strandgade 30, where he had moved in 1898. A rare night interior, the work depicts Svend facing towards the viewer, while absorbed intently in the examination of a coin by candelight, and was first owned by the artist’s early champion and biographer Alfred Bramsen.

The art of Vilhelm Hammershøi represents the last great flourishing of the Danish ‘Golden Age’, in which intellectual production in science, philosophy, literature, and the arts had bloomed in Denmark during the 19th century. With studies at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Hammershøi was immersed in the art of the Golden Age painters Eckersberg, Købke and Hansen, while his training at De frie Studieskoler, where Edvard Munch, Helene Schjerfbeck, and Harriet Becker also studied, introduced him to the avant garde. Living and working throughout his life in Copenhagen, in his observation of light and space he was deeply influenced by James McNeill Whistler, whose work he first saw when exhibiting two of his own paintings at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. He has recently been the subject of intense art historical interest, following seminal retrospectives at the Guggenheim in New York in 1998, and the Royal Academy in London and Museum of Western Art in Tokyo in 2008.

The 19th Century European Paintings Department in London is currently accepting consignments for the Scandinavian Sale, and further information on the highlights will be available in the autumn.

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