Many will remember the controversy that surrounds the painter Balthus and particularly the works where he painted Thérèse Blanchad when she was a young girl between the ages of 10 and 14. There are nearly a dozen of these works. The Met in New York owns two (both bequests), one makes viewers uncomfortable because of its depiction of Blanchad with her skirt falling down her raised legs exposing her underwear which many now read as inappropriate considering the girl’s age.
Two years ago, a petition gathered more than 10,000 signatures demanding the works be removed from the museum. The Met refused for the obvious reasons the petition encroached upon the artist’s freedom of expression. Nevertheless, the paintings have a certain frisson in today’s culture.
With that in mind, it comes as a surprise that Christie’s has announced the Thérèse sur une banquette from the Dorothy and Richard Sherwood Collection will be offered for a record price of $12-18m. The work carries a guarantee, so it will sell and set a new record.
Here’s Christie’s release:
This May, Christie’s will offer The Dorothy and Richard Sherwood Collection across 20th Century Week, with highlights featured in both its Evening Sales of Impressionist and Modern Art on 13 May, and Post-War and Contemporary Art on 15 May. Further examples from the collection will be offered in sales of American, Indian and South Asian and Japanese and Korean Art as well as Picasso Ceramics. The Sherwoods were admired within the collecting community for studying deeply and selecting paintings, drawings and sculptures that excited and challenged them. The result is a collection of discerning taste and exceptional quality. The works being offered reflect their profound connoisseurship, their appreciation of the creators and the creative process, and their great adventures of the heart and mind.
Max Carter, International Director, Head of Department, Impressionist and Modern Art, New York,remarked: “Dorothy and Richard Sherwood’s home was unlike any other, as much for the profound sense of thoughtfulness and purpose as the exceptional range and quality of its works of art. Each room displayed a trove of treasures like Balthus’s 1939 masterpiece Thérèse sur une banquette. One of Balthus’s outstanding achievements, this remarkable painting hung in the Sherwoods’ living room for nearly sixty years, last seen publicly as the cover of the “Cats and Girls” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013. No better Balthus has appeared at auction and none is likely to again. We are honored to offer these unique works this spring at Christie’s.”
The fine art collection of Dorothy and Richard Sherwood represents a lifetime of travel and discovery, an embrace of global art and artists—and erudition reaching across categories and continents. As pioneering civic leaders in Los Angeles, the Sherwoods were visionary thinkers and leaders who made an indelible impact on some of the finest arts institutions in the world.
Leading the collection is the tour de force by Balthus, Thérèse sur une banquette, 1939 (estimate: $12-18 million), which will be offered in the 13 May Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art. The present picture is the last of the artist’s renowned series of portraits featuring his muse, Thérèse Blanchard. In late 1935 Balthus became acquainted with Thérèse, a girl from a large family that lived a few blocks from the artist’s new studio. She was fourteen years old when she posed in 1939 for Thérèse sur une banquette. Between 1936 and 1939, Thérèse featured in “a series of ten paintings that must be regarded as [Balthus’s] most perceptive and sensitive portrayals of a young sitter and among his finest works,” Sabine Rewald has written. “The portraits of Thérèse, showing her reading or doing nothing but dreaming, inaugurated what would be the leitmotif of Balthus’s oeuvre.” In Thérèse sur une banquette, Balthus showcased his primarily professional, compositional concerns — aiming to depict his model in a novel, unique posture, with neither a familiar nor apparent precedent. He moreover sought to evoke her inner world with a sense of presence that was outwardly and convincingly grounded in the mechanics of movement, while exalting the sublime architecture of her youthful figure. Balthus established the complex lineaments of her extended posture, and every telling nuance in her expression, as she appears completely absorbed in a moment of play.