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Sale: 435 / Art of the 19th Century, Nov. 25. 2016 in Munich Lot 93

Lot description
Ödipus löst das Rätsel der Sphinx. 1891.
Oil on canvas.
Voss 49. Lower left signed. 86 x 147 cm (33.8 x 57.8 in).
Verso of stretcher with shipping label (for the exhibition in Munich in 2008). [CB].

We are grateful to Mr. Albert Ritthaler, Hamburg, for his kind expert advice.

PROVENANCE: Galerie Toelle, Barmen.
Private collection Karl May (1842-1912), Radebeul.
Collection Karl-May-Verlag Joachim Schmid & Co, Bamberg (since ca. 1960).
Auction house Hugo Ruef, Munich, auction 9 - 11 November 1988, lot 1243.
Galerie Bernd Dürr, Munich, 1988.
Private possession Italy.

EXHIBITION: International art exhibition of the Munich association of visual artists "Secession", Munich 1893, cat. no. 546 (no illu.).
Franz von Stuck. Meisterwerke der Malerei, Villa Stuck, Munich 2008/09, cat no. 44.

LITERATURE: Selection (for comprehensive lit. see catalog raisonné Voss):
Otto Julius Bierbaum, Franz von Stuck. Künstler Monographien, vol. XLII, Bielefeld and Leipzig 1899, illu. 43 (p. 42).
Franz Hermann Meißner, Franz von Stuck, Berlin and Leipzig 1899, black and white illu. on p. 93.
Die Kunst für Alle, XIX. year. 1903/04, illu. on p. 5.
Franz von Stuck. Das Gesamtwerk, preface by Fritz von Ostini, Munich 1909, illu. on p. 24.
Hans Hofstätter, Symbolismus und die Kunst der Jahrhundertwende, Cologne 1965, p. 190.
Ex. cat. Franz von Stuck. Exhibition on occassion of the reopening of the Villa Stuck on 9 March 1968, Munich, p. 67.

Figures from Greek and Roman mythology are among the most frequently rendered motifs in Franz von Stuck's vast oeuvre, they reoccur in ever new variants and variations. Stuck's deep interest in antiquity does not only show in his art, it also becomes obvious in the (interior-) design of his villa and the adjacent park in Munich, the centaur as his heraldic animal and his preference for Roman robes. Stuck addressed the theme of the Sphinx in a total of five works. The large oil painting from 1891 offered here 'Ödipus löst das Rätsel der Sphinx' (Oedipus Solves the Sphinx's Enigma) illustrates the climax of the ancient legend: Oedipus, the king's abandoned son, is the only one able to solve the mystery of the sphinx. "With great calm he looks the grim philosopher right into her jealous face, lecturing on her with splayed fingers" (Biermann 1893, p. 50). The sphinx' wide open eyes show her horror about her nemesis right before she casts herself into the abyss. In return for Theben's liberation from the sphinx, Oedipus is crowned king and the widowed queen Jocasta becomes his wife – not knowing that she is his biological mother. Beyond mythology, to Stuck the sphinx is a "symbol for the enigmatic and destructive woman, […] (that is) part of the concept of the 'femme fatale'." (Angela Heilmann, quote after: Claudia Gross-Roath, Das Frauenbild bei Franz von Stuck (dissertation, Bonn 1998), Weimar 1999, p. 280). In the painting 'Kuss der Sphinx' (Kiss of the Sphinx) from 1895, Stuck gave the man at the mercy of the sphinx his own facial features: "Stuck seems to be the one not capable of solving the enigma of the sphinx, that fatal female being. He has to surrender to the woman's kiss." (Gross-Roath 1999, p. 49.). Stuck's changed conception is subject of his later illustrations of the theme. The sphinx, initially a hybrid creature with a female head and the body of a lion, becomes a mere female figure in the posture of the sphinx in his later versions. "He reveals […] the female character and points to her dark side: Is man – every man is Oedipus – in deadly peril if the woman does not get the right answer?" (Gross-Roath 1999, p. 50).
Franz von Stuck
Ödipus löst das Rätsel der Sphinx, 1891.
Oil on canvas
€ 180,000 / $ 203,400
€ 412,500 / $ 466.124

(incl. 25% surcharge)

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