OAK PARK, IL.-
In Toomey & Co. Auctioneers
Art & Design auction on Thursday, December 2, 2021, a newly discovered Alphonse Mucha oil on canvas was offered as the first lot in the auction with a $100,000-200,000 estimate. Given very significant bidder interest both domestically and internationally, the painting ultimately realized $965,000 including buyers premium, nearly 10 times the estimated value. This price is an auction record for a study by Alphonse Mucha.
The rediscovered Mucha work, Young Couple from Rusadla, 1920, is a fully realized study depicting an embracing young couple who were part of a larger composition. The larger composition, titled Rusadla, illustrates a procession scene from a Slavic Midsummer Feast. The two figures in Young Couple from Rusadla appear in the upper-right-hand corner of Rusadla, which is now lost but was reproduced in the magazine Zlatá Praha on July 30, 1919 (issue 45/46, p. 361).
Czech artist Alphonse Mucha was a highly influential figure in the Art Nouveau movement in Paris who rose to fame in 1894 after creating a wildly popular lithograph poster advertisement for the play, Gismonda, starring Sarah Bernhardt. Subsequently, Mucha dedicated himself to chronicling the Slavic people and their history with his 20-painting series, Slav Epic.
In Rusadla, Mucha presents the procession of a Slavic Midsummer Feast, known as Rusal week or Rusalje, which was associated with the Christian celebration of the Pentecost. This larger painting features an encounter between Slavic people in traditional white robes and fierce mermaids from pagan mythology, Rusalki, who were thought to promote fertility and successful harvests.
The fully developed, original study, Young Couple from Rusadla, 1920, which Toomey & Co. sold for $965,000 in Art & Design on December 2, is a beautiful painting that stands on its own while expanding the scope of the larger, lost painting, Rusadla. Muchas fondness for the embracing couple is clearly evident in their vividly detailed representation, which is set against a verdant, glowing background.