Heroic Greek Masterpiece at Bonhams
Scène homérique avec le héros, a masterpiece by the leading Greek painter Nikos Engonopoulos (1907-1985) is among the major works in Bonhams Greek Art sale in London on Wednesday 18 November. It is estimated at £150,000-200,000.
The painting dates from Engonopoulos's much sought after pre-war period – it was executed in 1938 – and offers a dazzling and joyfully colourful array of styles and references. The figures are posed as if on a stage set, echoing the artist's belief that "under the stage lights, with the most harmonious moves, in a coordinated whole, amidst colours and music, every human dream comes alive." This highly important work was exhibited at the career-defining 1954 Venice Biennale when Engonopoulos became the first Greek artist to represent his country in a solo show. It is the most well documented and exhibited artwork of his entire oeuvre.
In addition, the sale features four important works by Constantinos Parthenis (1878-1967); Prosperity (£80,000-120,000), Angel /Discipline (£70,000-100,000, Harmony (£60,000 -80,000), and Double Axes (£30,000-40,000). In 1940, Parthenis, regarded as one of the greatest living Greek painters, was commissioned to provide 12 paintings to decorate a room on the first floor of Athens' City Hall. He was to be paid the vast – at the time – fee of 800,000 drachmas. The painter produced the canvases, but because of the outbreak of war and the German occupation of Greece, the Municipality was unable to pay. In the early 1950s, the Mayor of Athens proposed to revive the commission on the original terms. By then, however, the drachma had lost much of its pre-war value. Parthenis saw the offer as an insult and the paintings remained in his studio until his death in 1967.
Post-war and contemporary Greek international artists are also well represented in the sale and include:
Delphic Sun-Box #2, 1968 by Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997). Estimate: £25,000-35,000.
Penderie/ Coats by Pavlos (1930-2019). A construction with poster paper and hangers on board in plexiglass, c. 1968. Estimate: £20,000-30,000.
Untitled from 1996 by Apostolos Georgiou (born 1952). Estimate: £12,000-18,000.
Heads Mix Table 32 by Lucas Samaras (born 1936). Executed in 2003, this work is number 2 from an edition of 5. Another work from the same edition is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Estimate: £4,000-6,000.
Bonhams Greek Art specialist Anastasia Orfanidou said: "This strong sale truly represents the full sweep of 19th and 20th century Greek Art, from paintings by Volonakis and Jacobides, to photographic works (Polaroid and Photofiction series) by Lucas Samaras. Three works, however, stand out for me; Scène sale homérique avec le héros by Encononpoulos and the two works by Parthenis – Prosperity and Angel/Disciple – which were originally destined for Athens City Hall. All three paintings are of superb quality, the equal of works by these artists displayed in national and international galleries. I expect there to be a great deal of interest."
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