Rediscovered Leopold Carl Muller Painting for Sotheby’s Auction

On October 22, 2009, Sotheby’s will offer for sale Leopold Carl Müller’s rediscovered depiction of A Street Scene, Cairo. The picture will be included in Sotheby’s sale of 19th Century European Art Including Orientalist Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures and is estimated at $600/800,000. The work boasts a spectacular provenance – it was purchased the year it was executed by William Henry Vanderbilt and descended in his family until its sale at Sotheby’s predecessor Parke-Bernet in 1945. Recently discovered in a private collection, its sale this fall represents an opportunity for collectors to compete for a superb work of Orientalist art with an illustrious provenance.

leopold-carl-mullerA Street Scene, Cairo, was executed in 1880 and purchased privately by railroad mogul William H. Vanderbilt on June 20 of that same year. Vanderbilt at that time was at the helm of his father Cornelius Vanderbilt’s vast railroad empire, and by the time of W.H. Vanderbilt’s death in 1885 he was the richest man in the world. The painting then descended in Vanderbilt’s family and was exhibited beginning in 1903 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on long-term loan from George W. Vanderbilt, youngest son of William, and sold in the 1945 sale conducted by Parke Bernet of the Vanderbilt Collection by Brigadier General Cornelius Vanderbilt, nephew of George. The painting has remained in a private collection since its sale in 1945, and was only this year discovered when Sotheby’s research revealed its full provenance. In fact, the painting remains in its beautifully carved original frame and can be seen hanging in a period depiction of the Vanderbilt’s salon in their Fifth Avenue mansion.

Müller is credited as the founder of the Austrian school of Orientalist painting, and kept a studio in both Vienna and Cairo. He was a keen observer of everyday life in Egypt, and while this work does not appear to be site-specific, it represents an accurate depiction of Cairo’s vibrant street life in the late 19th Century. High quality works by Muller are highly sought-after by collectors; in October of 2008, Sotheby’s sold Müller’s An Almée’s Admirers for $1,650,500, the top price paid for a 19th Century painting in the United States in the fall 2008 season, and a world auction record for the artist. A Street Scene, Cairo along with works from the sale of 19th Century European Art Including Orientalist Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures will be exhibited at Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning October 17, 2009.

Image: Leopold Carl Müller, A Street Scene, Cairo, 1880, est. $600/800,000

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