Erofoli, a dramatic work by the Greek master painter Yiannis Tsarouchis, illustrating a scene from a 16th century Cretan tragedy, features in Bonhams Greek Art sale in London on 16 November. It is estimated at £70,000-100,000.
One of the most important plays of Cretan literature, Erofili, by Georgios Hortatsis, tells the story of the daughter of King Philogonos – the Erofili of the title – who loves the brave general Panaretos. They marry in secret but the King finds out, brutally kills the bridegroom and presents his daughter with her lover's severed head and limbs in a golden bowl.
In the words of the painter himself, "I painted the heroine of Hortatsis's tragedy when she sees the head, heart and hands of her beloved Panaretos. She is dressed in a neoclassical outfit which I took from a folk woodcut of the popular edition of Erotokritos depicting Aretousa. The work is strongly influenced by Byzantine and Oriental art."
The sale also includes one of the largest and most beautiful still lives by Tsarouchis ever to be come to auction. Still life: Arum lilies and irises in a vase, a lemon and a belt, from an important Parisian collection, and estimated at £25,000-35,000, is dominated by genuineness of character and purity of form. As Tsarouchis once said, "Whether I paint men or flowers I must reveal the divine spirit that lies within them." The beautifully executed and poetically pure flowers and the vivacious yellow lemon placed next to them, which are in discreet and appealing contrast with the sensuality of the masculine military belt, harmoniously unify the composition into a captivating, convincing and yet unique work of art. Another Tsarouchis still life from the same collection Still life with pomegranates is also in the sale, estimated at £10,000-15,000.
Tsarouchis' niece, Despina Politi, was one of the artist's favourite models. He painted her many times and one of these portraits is included in the sale, estimated at £18,000-25,000. Commenting on the work, Bonhams Greek Art specialist, Olympia Pappa, said: "In this picture Despina gazes outwards in intense scrutiny, while the solid outlines, lively brushwork and bold application of paint convey a striking immediacy and resilient allure as well as a sense of reserved authority and lofty stature. The sitter's frontal poise and direct gaze are strongly reminiscent of Fayum mummy portraiture which flourished in late Roman and Byzantine Egypt between the 3rd and 7th centuries. Fayum portraits were was a major source of inspiration for Tsarouchis in his effort to reinterpret the age old tradition of Greco-Roman and Byzantine art in a modern and vigorous manner something he achieves triumphantly in Despina.
Olympia Pappa from Bonhams Greek art department commented: "These chefs-d'oeuvre by Yiannis Tsarouchis cover a wide array of themes and styles. Tsarouchis's art developed into two key strands: toward the orientalist and sensual, with evident inspiration from Matisse, and toward the ancient Greek ideal as conveyed by the Renaissance and the Baroque movements. The paintings in the sale reflect his artistic mastery and idiosyncratic character. They encapsulate the pivotal role he played in portraying and shaping modern Greek identity and elevating his creations into symbols of modern Greek spirit."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
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