Ferdinand Hodler Masterpiece Femme Joyeus Auctions for CHF2,882,50 at Sotheby’s in Zurich

Sotheby’s Swiss Art sale in Zurich realised CHF 9,453,500 (€7,730,599) under the hammer of Dr. Claudia Steinfels, Director of Sotheby’s Zurich.

The auction was led by Femme joyeuse (Joyful Woman) which sold for CHF 2,882,500 (€2,357,164), against a pre-sale estimate of CHF 2.5-3 million (€ 1,890,000-2,260,000). Lot 72 was the first in a series of five works on this theme produced by Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1919) between 1909 and 1911. The subject of this monumental canvas – one of the most powerful figure compositions by the great Swiss painter – is Valentine Godé-Darel (1873-1915), who had been the object of Hodler’s adoration since he first met her in 1908. Fascinated by the young woman’s beauty and spirit, the artist went on to depict her in most of his portraits, pushing the limits of portraiture to represent his mistress’ agony and death in 1915.

Femme joyeuse shows Valentine at the height of her beauty and reflects a recurrent theme in Hodler’s symbolist oeuvre: the communion of man with nature. Before tonight’s auction, a series of illustrious collectors had been quick to recognise the importance of this exceptional work. In 1909, the painting was bought directly from Hodler by the Winterthur industrialist and art collector Richard Bühler. In 1936 it entered the important collection of the Swiss chemist Arthur Stoll. At the death of the latter, the work went to a private collection. Until this weekend’s exhibition at Sotheby’s Zurich, this masterpiece had not been seen in public since the 1976 exhibition at the Kunsthaus, Zurich, A Painter of Love and Death – Ferdinand Hodler and Valentine Godé-Darel.

Other highlights of the sale include:

An outstanding portrait of the Zaeslin Siblings (Die Geschwister Zaeslin) painted in 1896 by Albert Anker (1831-1910), one of the most important Swiss artists of the 19th century, sold for CHF 914,500 (€747,832) (lot 9, est. CHF 600,000-800,000/ €452,000-605,000).

Following the sale of a prestigious collection of works by Vallotton in December 2010, 13 works by the celebrated artist were offered for sale tonight. Among them was Femme nue agenouillée devant un canapé rouge (Naked woman kneeling in front of a red couch) dating from 1915. Estimated at CHF 500,000-700,000/ €377,000-530,000, lot 37 sold for CHF 674,500 (€551,572).

Landscapes which occupy a major place Vallotton’s oeuvre also attracted strong bids tonight. The Dordogne in Vitrac (La Dordogne à Vitrac) – perhaps one of Vallotton’s most accomplished “composed landscapes” – achieved CHF 506,500 (€414,190). Painted in June 1925, after a stay in Dordogne, this work (lot 62) was offered with an estimate of CHF 400,000-600,000/ €302,000–452,000.

A further testimony to Vallotton’s art of landscape, The Wood of Boulogne (Bois de Boulogne) sold for CHF 362,500/ €296,434 (lot 38, est. CHF 300,000-500,000/ €226,000-377,000).

In addition to Vallotton’s landscapes, the sale comprised a magnificent landscape by Ferdinand Hodler, Walk along the border of a wood (Spaziergang am Waldrand) which realised CHF 458,500 (€374,938), against an estimate of CHF 380,000 450,000/ €287,000-339,000 (lot 15).

Other notable prices:

A realist portrait of Deux Valaisannes au paysage d’hiver (Two women from the Valais in a winter landscape) by Ernest Biéler (1863-1948) achieved CHF 314,500 (€257,182) (lot 25, est. CHF 150,000-200,000/ €113,000-151,000).

Filet et Pneu (Group of person with tyre) by Louis Soutter – a leading „Art brut“ artist – realised CHF 242,500 (€198,304), surpassing the pre-sale estimate of CHF 100.000-150.000 (€ 75.500-113.000) (Lot 97).

Die Ballspielenden (The Ball Players) – a ballpoint pen drawing by Alberto Giacometti – sold for CHF 86,500 (€70,735), more than three times the low estimate (lot 91, est. CHF 25,000-30,000/ €18,900-22,600).

A portrait of the English top model Kate Moss by Daniele Buetti fetched CHF 7,500 (€6,133). Enhanced with ball-point pen – the artist’s signature, Looking for love, 1996-2000 was estimated at CHF 6,000-8,000/ €4,550-6,100 (lot 123).

An iconic portrait of Ernesto Che Guevara by the world-renowned made the Swiss photographer René Burri fetched CHF 8,750 (€7,155). Estimated at CHF 8.000 12.000 (€6.100–9.100), this photograph was taken in Habana, Cuba in 1963 (Lot 127).

Sotheby’s Zurich holds “Swiss Art” auctions twice a year. The next sale will take place in autumn 2011.

Image:Ferdinand Hodler, Femme joyeuse (Joyful Woman) which sold for CHF 2,882,500 (€2,357,164), against a pre-sale estimate of CHF 2.5-3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.

** Pre-sale estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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