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The Greek Sale / Theofilos Hadjimichael (Greek, 1871-1934) Hercule tuant l'hydre de Lerne (Peint en 1929.inscribed in Greek (on the left side)natural pigments on wall laid on panel)
Sold for €176,775 inc. premium
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Gagas coffee shop, Parakoila, Mytilene. (according to Periigitis magazine, 1960)
Private collection, Mytilene and Athens.
Athens, B&M Theocharakis Foundation for the Fine Arts and Music, Theofilos, the Evzone of Painting, November 10, 2021 - February 28, 2022 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, p. 34).
Periigitis magazine, January 1960, pp. 16-23 (mentioned).
The Painter Theofilos on Mytilene, exhibition catalogue, Mytilene 1962, p. 21, no. 4 (mentioned).
G. Samatouras, Twelve Folk Painters, Athens 1974, p. 91 (mentioned).
I Lesvos Mas magazine, no. 44. October-December 2004, p. 9 (mentioned).
*Veuillez noter qu'en raison de la réglementation grecque, ce lot ne peut être exporté de Grèce et sera disponible pour consultation et inspection à Athènes sur rendez-vous ou lors de l'Athens Preview, du 4 au 7 mai 2022. Cette œuvre restera à Athènes pendant la vente aux enchères.
*Please note that due to Greek regulation, this lot cannot be exported from Greece and will be available for viewing and inspection in Athens either by appointment or during the Athens Preview, 4th-7th of May 2022. This work will be located in Athens during the auction.
One of the artist' few surviving murals rescued from decay or destruction in the early 1960s thanks to the efforts of prominent intellectuals and collectors, this captivating work of pulsating energy was transferred onto canvas from its original wall in a coffee-shop in the village of Parakoila on the island of Lesvos (Mytilini) and restored with great care.
Hercules, wearing his signature lion pelt and holding his legendary club, is about to perform the second of his famous Labours, the killing of Lernaia Hydra, a venomous water-snake monster with a dog's body and nine snake-like heads (note the fragmentary inscription on the lower left) that preyed on passing travellers. Theofilos portrays the great hero splashing into the mud of marshy Lerna, a desolate swamp near the city of Argos, and attacking the serpent's coiling necks, having already slayed two of them.
Apart from being fascinated with the heroism and glory of Hercules, Theofilos was also enthralled by the luxuriant natural environment used as a backdrop for the hero's deed. As noted by the painter O. Kanellis, one of the first to discover his work, Theofilos sought to illuminate not only what he thought to be true about Greek history but also what was true about Greek nature with man being a part of it. "When we see an outdoor scene by Theofilos we hardly think that we see the landscape from a distance, but rather that we live in it, that we actually walk through it. Any sense of distance is eliminated and we are surrounded by lush trees and pristine grasslands in a lucid, diaphanous atmosphere. His piercing blue eyes gave us a world full of gallantry and freshness."1
Abolishing of the rules of perspective that could impede his creative zeal and rejecting the illusion of depth was a deliberate choice made by Theofilos. Especially when he painted murals in stores or coffee-shops frequented by many people, he knew that his work shouldn't undermine the wall's optical stability by penetrating its surface through the use of deep, illusionistic perspective. On the contrary, all painted images should remain flat. He also knew that to provide a full description of his subjects he must leave nothing obscure. Everything must be explained and clearly expressed. Therefore, all phenomena are trust forward to the narrative surface where they receive even illumination in a flat, continuous present.
The novelist K. Ouranis describes his feelings when he first saw Theofilos' murals in the village of Agiassos, not far from Parakoila: "I felt a child-like joy, pure and deep. The village coffee-shop under the plane trees seemed like a magic cage, adorned with dazzling gems, inside which sang like a bird the Greek soul."2
1 O. Kanellis, "The Painter Theofilos" [in Greek], Tachydromos magazine, no. 379, July 15, 1961.
2 K. Ouranis, "The Painter Theofilos" [in Greek], Nea Estia magazine, no. 19, November 15, 1936.