Ewa Juszkiewicz - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Ewa Juszkiewicz’s paintings engage the long history of artifice and concealment in Western portraiture. Working from traditional portraits of upper-class women, dating from the Renaissance to the 19th century, Juszkiewicz deftly reproduces the conventional settings and poses, but with a Surrealist twist: she completely covers the faces of her sitters, with drapery, florae and faunae, or, in the case of Untitled (after Ernst Thelott), 2019, the sitter’s own hair. Such concealment and (dis)identification speaks to the wider art history of female portraiture, and the ways in which beauty and conventions can hide our true selves.


    Ernst Thelott, Elise Dorothea Friederike, Freifrau von Schaezler, geb. Freifrau von Süsskind, c. 1829-1831.

    The present work takes its name from Ernst Thelott’s portrait of Elise Dorothea Friederike, a Swabian baroness who died in 1831, aged just 21. As in Thelott’s portrait, Juszkiewicz’s interpretation places the young Elise in a decadent satiny gown, with puff sleeves and a ruched neckline. The background behind Elise is as fantastic as her dress, depicting a sunset over distant mountains, with a small branch or bush at lower left, all dwarfed by Elise’s enormous sleeves. Juszkiewicz meticulously reproduces these details from Thelott’s portrait, expertly capturing the transparent values of Elise’s sleeves; the painted surface of Untitled (after Ernst Thelott) is as smooth and shiny as any court portrait from history.


    Juszkiewicz critical difference, of course, is the exchange of Elise’s frilly curls and calm, rosy-cheeked complexion for a braided up-do in reverse. One can imagine that Juszkiewicz was inspired by Elise’s topknot, but freshened up the look for the 21st century—the loosely braided hair in Untitled (after Ernst Thelott) is wonderfully contemporary, recalling the braided hairstyles of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games that wove into 2010s fashion. More recent art historical referents, too, come to mind, like René Magritte’s work, Le viol, 1945, as the displacement of the sitter’s face immediately raises questions of identity, the uncanny, and individuality under the male gaze.


    René Magritte, Le viol, 1945. Image: Banque d'Images, ADAGP / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2023 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Juszkiewicz’s erasure of her historical female subjects speaks to the anonymization and homogenization of women under beauty standards throughout history, and up through the present day. While Elise Dorothea Friederike is not a famous historical figure, her formal portrait reveals nothing about her personality; though her features are individualized, the 21st century viewer cannot distinguish her from the next young woman in a pretty dress. Juszkiewicz’s concealment of Elise’s face—as well as her identity, as the title Untitled (after Ernst Thelott) only names the artist, not the sitter—reminds us how little one can understand about a person from her appearance alone. “Paradoxically,” Juszkiewicz says, through concealment “I want to uncover individuality, character, emotions. I want to bring out the vitality.”


    Collectors’ Digest


    • After a decade of solo shows across Europe, Juszkiewicz had her debut at Gagosian, New York, with Ewa Juskiewicz: In vain her feet in sparking laces glow, Nov. 17, 2020-Jan. 4, 2021.

    • Her work resides in esteemed museum collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; The Long Museum, Shanghai; the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Miami; and le Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris.



    “Lot No. 1131#, Ernst Thelott,” Dorotheum, 2013, online.

    ii Ewa Juszkiewicz, quoted in Claire Selvin, “Painter Ewa Juszkiewicz Wants to Shatter Conservative Ideas About Beauty,” ARTnews, Nov. 25, 2020, online.

    • Provenance

      Half Gallery, New York
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Ο ◆9

Untitled (after Ernst Thelott)

signed and stamped with the artist’s signature and date “Ewa Juszkiewicz Ewa Juszkiewicz 2019” on the reverse
oil on canvas
31 1/2 x 23 5/8 in. (80 x 60 cm)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $635,000

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2023