(Breslau 1815 - Berlin 1905)
Studies of a Man Smoking, in Profile
The verso dotted with watercolour samples.
Signed with initials and dated A. M./ 88. at the lower right.
Inscribed M in pencil on the verso.
215 x 142 mm. (8 1/2 x 5 5/8 in.)
The German author Ludwig Thoma, who often wrote of life in rural Bavaria, described the Peterskeller in 1880: ‘One had to walk across a wide monastery courtyard to visit the small square opening - the Peterskeller - which was enclosed on three sides by monastic buildings, on the fourth by a high cliff. There stood about a dozen tables and benches in front of it, comfortably close together, a patch of blue sky overhead...Clergy, citizens, officers formed the crowd in which one casually found themselves. Anyone who came did not search for an empty table, but sat down alongside the guests present...’
The present sheet is drawn on a printed invitation to a court ball held in Berlin in 1886, some two years before the drawing was made. Menzel often drew on the backs of printed invitations or programmes, sometimes folding the sheet in half to make it easier to draw on. Several other sketches by the artist drawn on invitations are known, such as a group of costume studies on a printed card dated 1875, in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin.
The verso of the present sheet is covered with brushstrokes in watercolour; a practice often used by the artist to test his colours before starting work on a watercolour or gouache drawing. As Menzel’s friend Paul Meyerheim recalled of the artist, ‘While his oil paintings took shape on the canvas like a mosaic, his watercolours were often developed on an old piece of paper used for cleaning his paintbrush. He would shade off the chaos of colours a little and, carefully sticking this smooth paper, which no one else would have used to paint on, on to a piece of board, he started to work on the watercolour. The cardboard was itself attached to a drawing board, inside a wooden box on which he had fixed a piece of wood to rest his hand. All of this took place on a small table, as the master only ever worked standing up.’6Similar watercolour tests are found on several drawings by Menzel, such as the title page of the so-called Children’s Album of 1863, in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin.
The first owner of this drawing was the Austrian industrialist Moritz Edler von Kuffner (1854-1939), a brewer and property developer who was one of the most significant Viennese collectors of the 19th century. (He was also a prominent and gifted mountaineer.) Von Kuffner assembled a very fine collection of drawings by Menzel, as well as drawings by Jacopo Ligozzi, Rembrandt, Rudolf von Alt, and others. (The Menzel drawings in the collection were noted by Hans Tietze in his magisterial book on the artworks of Vienna, published in 1908.) Such was the renown of the Menzel drawings in the Kuffner collection that at one point thirteen sheets by the artist were earmarked for acquisition by the curator of the Albertina in Vienna, Otto Benesch. However, all but one of the drawings were eventually returned to the family in July 1938, shortly before they were forced to emigrate to Switzerland, following the Anschluss. The drawings were inherited by Moritz’s son Stephan Kuffner (1894-1976), and eventually passed to his niece, Vera von Kuffner Eberstadt (1928-2014).
By descent to his son, Stephan von Kuffner
Thence by descent to Moritz von Kuffner’s granddaughter, Vera von Kuffner Eberstadt, New York
Her posthumous sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 8 July 2015, lot 157