The bid for the first version of József Rippl-Rónai’s Woman with Birdcage will start at 180 million forints at the winter auction organized by the Kieselbach Gallery on 17 December at the Marriott Hotel;
such a starting price has not been seen in Hungarian art auctions before,
informed the gallery on Monday.
The gallery’s statement emphasizes that it caused a sensation when the artwork, also known as the Hungarian Mona Lisa, surfaced in 2005 after a century of obscurity but it did not stay in Hungary at that time. They recall that at the auction house Leslie Hindman in Chicago, after prolonged bidding, the record-breaking hammer fell at $590,400. ‘This marked a hundredfold increase from its initial starting price, and it even multiplied the subsequently adjusted final starting price in an unprecedented way,’ the gallery wrote. Before the first variant of the renowned painting reached its new owner in Western Europe, it briefly appeared at the Hungarian National Gallery in October 2006.
The gallery’s statement expresses that the Woman with Birdcage is a key masterpiece of Hungarian modern fine arts.
The painting, created in Paris in 1892, represents the highest level of late 19th-century modernism.
The dreaming, slender Art Nouveau female figure with her green cage has captivated the hearts of millions of viewers at the permanent exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery. ‘The second version’ not only graces the cover of most Rippl-Rónai monographs but is also used by the Museum of Fine Arts to promote itself at major Western exhibitions.
The statement notes that Hungary’s economic situation has perhaps changed enough compared to nearly two decades ago, so that such an iconic masterpiece does not disappear again into the possession of a Western European private owner or the collection of a well-funded international museum giant, as happened with many major Rippl-Rónai works. The statement adds that the national iconic status of József Rippl-Rónai’s painting is similar to Gustav Klimt’s 1907 golden portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which was preserved by the Austrian National Gallery, the Belvedere in Vienna, before moving to America, purchased by Ronald Lauder for his New York museum for a record-breaking $135 million in 2006.
The Kieselbach Gallery’s statement underscores that Woman with Birdcage is a key masterpiece of Hungarian modern painting, and its appearance at an auction is a true sensation. The gallery notes that a similarly significant event in the region was the sale of Czech cubist painter Bohumil Kubista’s 1911 landscape Old Prague Motif, which fetched 1.6 billion forints last year.