NEW YORK, NY.- Kestenbaum & Company
will be featuring the important Portrait of a Young Jewish Bride in our upcoming auction of Fine Judaica. This early 20th century oil painting has never before appeared for auction sale. It was acquired directly from Philipp Kaufmann, son of the artist, and has now been consigned to Kestenbaum for auction several decades later by descendants of the original owner. Estimated at $200,000-300,000 the painting is accompanied by a detailed letter of provenance written by Philipp Kaufmann (London, 1964).
The image of the Jewish Bride is particularly well-known due to Rembrandt's iconic bridal portrait of 1667 which featured the Biblical Isaac and his wife Rebecca. That image shares many qualities with the present painting by Kaufmann, in regard to both artistic presentation and emotional texture.
Artistically, our example, featuring a young woman, is, like her earlier counterpart, dressed in colors of gold and scarlet - a style of almost Byzantine opulence. Rembrandt's version being interpreted in the fashion of the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century and Kaufmanns version, in the tradition of 19th century Polish refined splendor.
Kaufmanns portrait here depicts the sitter wearing the traditional garb of an affluent, Orthodox, Aschkenazic woman. Particularly characteristic are her head-coverings: A wig-like kupke, over which is the sterntichel - or star-form tiara made of precious stones (or in this case, pearls) - which was worn by Eastern European Jewish women on the Sabbath and Festivals. The diadem spoke of her socio-economic status, for one from her affluent class, would often donate a stone or pearl from her sterntichel, to assist a needy bride.
The sitter also wears a luxuriant stripped shawl trimmed with fur, which appears in other female portraits by Kaufmann - a hint to the bib-like fabric plastron, or bindalik, he elsewhere incorporated. This vertical kerchief was a distinctly Jewish adornment worn by married women, known by some as a "brüsttüch." Finally, a pair of delicate pearl earrings completes her parure.
This same model, in identical costume, is seen in Kaufmann's "Young Woman in Synagogue," where the lady is found seated in the synagogue holding an ethrog (see Natter (ed.) Kaufmann Catalogue, p. 200).
Affixed to the reverse of our painting is a letter dated 28th February, 1964, written by the artist's son, Philipp Kaufmann, in which the model is identified as Marie Pauline Kaufmann, the artist's daughter, affectionately referred to as "Mizzi." Philipp continues: "My father had the greatest difficulties in finding the original old bridal costume. He finally located it in Poland." According to Philip's letter, the costume was displayed in the Sabbath Room of the Jewish Museum of Vienna. This was a period diorama installed in the museum from 1899 to 1938, of the furniture, ritual objects and clothing one might find in much of Kaufmanns works.
The subject of an Orthodox Jewish woman is a painting Kaufmann created far less often than his portraits of Hasidic men. Her appearance here is one of both intimacy and serenity. Despite the modest gaze, her demeanor is calmly confident, relaxed in the supreme dignity of her faith. A belief-system that to many of her era - especially in Western Europe - viewed as a backward, dying culture, yet here, ironically celebrated and appreciated in art form by the assimilated and cosmopolitan Jewish bourgeoisie of fin de siècle Vienna.
This portrait has been exhibited most recently at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem: Making an Entrance: Jewish Artists in 19th-Century Europe (2013-14) and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Isidor Kaufmann: A Special Exhibit (2005-06).
This painting, along with a second Kaufmann work - Portrait of a Hasid (same provenance) - will lead the Fine Arts segment of the March 16th Auction.
Kestenbaum & Company, the premier niche auction house of Fine Judaica in the United States, also specializes in rare books, important manuscripts, autographed letters, maps and ceremonial objects. Most recently, the auction house set a new record for the sale of a Moritz Oppenheim painting at $455,000.