A Balthus Painting Deaccessioned by the Art Institute Of Chicago Heads to Auction at Sotheby’s, Where It Could Fetch $18 Million


A painting by Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus, has been deaccessioned by the Art Institute of Chicago and is expected to fetch as much as $18 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York.

The 1948 painting , also known as , has been in the Chicago museum’s collection for nearly six decades but was deaccessioned so the museum can acquire new works, a spokesperson for the Art Institute confirmed to Artnet News. The news was first reported by .

“Balthus’s was part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Joseph Winterbotham Collection, which was established in 1921. It is a collection jointly overseen by Modern and Contemporary Art and Painting and Sculpture of Europe comprising up to 35 modern European paintings,” a museum spokesperson said over email.

“The collection was established with a mandate for continuous evaluation and improvement, and it is regularly reassessed. To acquire new work for this collection, the museum must deaccession from it.”

In further comments to , the Art Institute said it acquired the work from Balthus’s dealer Pierre Matisse, the son of Henri Matisse, in 1964 but that its deaccession was spurred by the fact the museum had numerous works by the artist in its collection.

Sotheby’s said it will publish a full catalog essay with further information in coming weeks before the Modern Evening Auction in November.

Balthus painted the work in Fribourg, Switzerland, during World War II. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Sotheby’s called it a “remarkable example” of his work.

The painting portrays Balthus’s model Jeanette Aldry engrossed in a game of Solitaire, representing the artist’s first depiction of a card game, which would become a recurring motif in his oeuvre.

“Aldry is depicted alone beside an extinguished candle, a vanitas symbol representing the passage of time,” the spokesperson said. “These symbolic elements, coupled with Balthus’s skillful use of dramatic chiaroscuro, nods to the artist’s love of the Old Master painters.”


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