Wojciech Kossak (1856 – 1942)


Lot 135. Property from Ambrose Naumann Fine Art, New York. WOJCIECH KOSSAK. Paris 1856 – 1942 Krakow. PORTRAIT OF A VEILED WOMAN, signed with monogram lower right, on figure’s upper arm: WK, oil on canvas, unlined, unframed: 21¼x 17¾ in.; 54 x 45.1 cm, framed: 25¾ x 22½ in.; 65.7 x 56.8 cm. Estimate $12,000 – 15,000. Sotheby’s. 06/25/20

Big stretch with attribution and big stretch with monogram presence. I am pretty sure, even Desa-Unicum wouldn’t accept this painting on her auction. But, ….beautiful and compassionate catalogue note can be used for other occasion – love it!

Obrazu oczywiście nie sprzedano.


Catalogue Note

“Kossak was one of the innumerable European artists enchanted by the Middle East and Asia during the 19th century. The popularity of “Orientalism” in the Western canon is oftentimes characterized by romanticized and amalgamated images of exotic locales, fashions and people. Here, Kossak offers a mysterious and seductive portrait of a veiled woman gazing directly at the viewer. Who is she? Is this a portrait from life, or a fleeting memory from Kossak’s trip? I happen to love the quick, sketch-like character or the painting, which was a hallmark of the artist.”. David Pollack

This striking and seemingly spontaneous oil sketch of a veiled woman was painted by the Polish artist Wojciech Kossak, whose artistic renown stretched far beyond his native land. The sketchy yet carefully detailed technique used here was a hallmark of his style, though such reserved subjects were rare within his typically theatrical oeuvre, which largely consisted of dramatic history paintings. That it is subtly monogrammed with his initials rather than his full name suggests this work may have been intended as a more personal or private endeavor rather than a commission.  

Kossak came from a family of artists, as the son of the painter Juliusz. Kossak and the godson of famed battle painter Horace Vernet. He trained in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts under Alexandre Cabanel and Léon Bonnat, and also studied at the Krakow School of Fine Arts. From 1874-1876, he attended the Academy of Arts in Munich, where he joined a network of hundreds of Polish expatriates and where he found lasting support for his large-scale history scenes. Among his friends here were the artists Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz, whom would greatly influence Kossak, and Michael Gorstkin Wywiórski. Kossak was one of the more than sixty Polish artists who travelled to the Middle-East in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and in 1900 he traveled with Wywiórski to Egypt, where he may have completed the present sketch. 

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