Gyula Tornai (Hungarian, 1861-1928) A Japanese princess going to church 96 1/2 x 52in (245 x 132cm) (Painted circa 1906)

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 195
Gyula Tornai
(Hungarian, 1861-1928)
A Japanese princess going to church 96 1/2 x 52in (245 x 132cm)

Sold for US$ 176,000 inc. premium

European Paintings

29 Oct 2010, 13:00 EDT

New York

from Cate

Gyula Tornai (Hungarian, 1861-1928)
A Japanese princess going to church
signed and inscribed 'Tornai Gy. Tokio' (lower left)
oil on canvas
96 1/2 x 52in (245 x 132cm)
Painted circa 1906


    Goupil Gallery, London, 1906;
    Emil Richter Kunstsalon, Dresden, November 1907;
    Keller und Reiner Kunstsalon, Berlin, November 1907;
    Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, January 1908;
    Leipzig, March - April, 1908;
    Galerie Bock, Hamburg, May 1908;
    'Japan and India', Tornai solo exhibition, Budapest, October, 1909, no. 12.

    Elet, 24 October 1909, p. 548;
    Budapest, Japan and India: Tornai Gyula, Mucsarnok, 1909, no. 12;
    Paur Geza, 'Tornai Exhibition on Japan and India,' Vasarnapi Ujsag, 10 October 1909, pp. 849-850;
    Kovacs Agnes: 'Dancing Geisha. About Tornai's Oriental Paintings', Artmagazin, 2008, vol. 2, pp. 56-64.

    Born in 1861 in Görgö, Gyula Tornai received his artistic education at the academies in Vienna, Munich and in Benczur's studio in Budapest. He exhibited in London, Paris and in the Budapest Art Gallery in 1909 and in the National Salon in 1917. He began his career painting the genre scenes that were so popular in the last quarter of the 19th Century, but after his travels to India, China, Japan and Morocco his themes changed to depictions of the varied and exotic places and customs of those destinations. Tornai stayed in Tangier from 1890 to 1891 and in 1900 he exhibited pictures in the Exposition Universelle in Paris to great acclaim.

    In 1904, Tornai offered a significant number of works from these journeys for sale in Budapest in order to finance an artistic adventure to India and Japan. The sale of the paintings was a great success and in the summer of 1905 the artist set off for the Far East. He began his Japanese foray by painting a portrait of the former Japanese prime-minister Count Okuma, and with this influential patron, Tornai was allowed access to aspects of Japanese life which were often hidden from Europeans at the time and enabled the artist to delve deeply into the world of Buddhism and Shintoism. Over the next sixteen months, Tornai traveled throughout the Land of the Rising Sun and visited Nara, Kyoto, Nikko and Nagoya.

    Upon his return from this two year journey which included a tour in India, the artist gathered together sixty large canvases and several studies and sent them on exhibition through several major European cities, including London, Paris, Hamburg, Dresden, Leipzig and finally Budapest in the autumn of 1909. In his own words, Tornai described this painting in the exhibition catalogue: 'Item 12: Japanese princess going to church. Her servants stay outside in the yard waiting for their lady, and prostrate themselves in prayer for Buddha. The princess on the painting is the mikado's elder sister whose authority demanded even Europeans prostrate themselves in respect a few years ago.'

    The painting depicts the elder sister of Mutsuhito, Emperor of Japan from 1867 to 1912, accompanied by her servants as she enters a Buddhist shrine. Executed in the vivid colors so characteristic of the artist and painted on a heroic scale, A Japanese princess going to church is a tour-de-force of color and composition. The colorful kimonos of the ladies-in waiting as well as their varied positions create an energy in the foreground of the painting that is carried up the steps of the shrine to the figure of the princess, her head bowed in devotion. The swirling colors of her richly-decorated kimono echo the curve of the staircase as well as the ornamental carving of the doorway to the shrine. In this painting, Tornai has given the viewer a glimpse into a world totally foreign to the European sensibility and despite the broad brushstrokes and dynamism of composition the artist has created a world of hushed devotion and reverence.
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Arms & Armour, Coins and Medals, Motor Cars, Motorcycles, Wine & Whisky

27.5% on the first $25,000 of the hammer price;
26% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of $25,000 up to and including $1,000,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of $1,000,000 up to and including $6,000,000;
and 14.5% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of $6,000,000.

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card for returning clients only. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.

Shipping Notices

If you have requested a shipping quote, we will send this to you via email within 5 business days of the auction ending.

Please note our shipping quotes are bespoke and require special care and handling from our team and shippers. Shipping will be booked after payment is received. Please allow 7-14 business days from the time of booking for packing and dispatch, depending on your chosen shipping method. If your purchase is time sensitive, or you wish to explore other options, please see our list of alternative third party shippers in New York and Los Angeles who may be able to assist you.

If you have any questions, please contact our Client Services team.