Eminent Makart donation for the Leopold Museum

The Leopold Museum was delighted to receive an art-historically momentous donation from a generous Viennese citizen with Hans Makart’s triptych “Modern Cupids”.

The Historicist masterpiece, which was auctioned by the Viennese auctioneer’s Dorotheum, was created by the Salzburg-born painter in 1868. Calling it “Parlor Decor”, he exhibited it in the summer of that year at the Kunstverein München, where it provoked highly discursive reactions – ranging from enthusiasm to criticism. The art historian Friedrich Pecht admiringly calling it a “children’s fairytale”. A 1869 newspaper review featured the central painting and described it as a “triumphal procession of a sort of May Queen” who, “though herself clad in fashionable dress like most of the other girls, is carried by young naked fauns, shepherd boys and other merry mythical folk”. Gerbert Frodl, author of the catalogue raisonné of Makart’s oeuvre and former Director of the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, stated in the auction catalogue: “In terms of painting technique and content, Makart’s early bravura is unrivaled in this work.”

Hans Makart had originally intended the work for his future studio, but after its success in Munich, Count Johann Franz Pálffy-Erdöd bought it directly from the artist for his collection during a presentation in Vienna. It then changed owners several times – among them Countess Marie Trapp and the Hotel Maria-Theresia in Innsbruck – before it was acquired in 1978 by an Austrian bank, today part of Unicredit, who put it up for auction. Owing to its art-historical significance, the Austrian Federal Monuments Office banned the work’s export already in 1975.

The Director of the Leopold Museum, Hans-Peter Wipplinger, sought a sponsor for the work after the auction catalogue was released. Managing to find someone three days before the auction, he was able to purchase the work on behalf of the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, for around 326,000 Euros. This week, he gratefully received the deed of donation.

“The triptych is a highly significant new acquisition for the collection of the Leopold Museum, as it bridges the gap between Historicism and Secessionist art, in other words, between Hans Makart and Gustav Klimt. Following the donation of Klimt’s painting ‘The Altar of Dionysus’ half a year ago by a Viennese couple, we are now in a position to compare the analogies between these two eminent protagonists of Austrian art. Despite the vehemence with which the Secessionists rejected Makart’s Historicism, Klimt’s painting clearly shows that he adopted some of its characteristics in terms of motif and formal esthetics – accommodating the prevailing taste for Japanese planarity, using a gold background instead of a blue sky, and allowing the contemporary fashion introduced by Makart to enter into the pictorial program. Makart was indeed a source of inspiration to the Secessionists – and especially to Klimt – and exerted greater influence than was commonly believed.” (Hans-Peter Wipplinger)

Following conservation work carried out by the Leopold Museum’s restoration department, the work will be made accessible to the public thanks to the generous donor.

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