Gyula Tornai (Hungarian, 1861-1928) The new necklace 53 3/4 x 83 3/4in (136.5 x 213cm)

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Lot 49W
Gyula Tornai
(Hungarian, 1861-1928)
The new necklace 53 3/4 x 83 3/4in (136.5 x 213cm)

US$ 80,000 - 120,000
£ 65,000 - 98,000
Gyula Tornai (Hungarian, 1861-1928)
The new necklace
signed 'TORNAI. GY.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
53 3/4 x 83 3/4in (136.5 x 213cm)


  • Provenance
    Sale, BAV, Budapest, 13 November 2013;
    Private collection, Budapest, Hungary;
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    One of the foremost Hungarian Orientalist painters, Gyula Tornai began his artistic education in the academies of Vienna, Munich and Budapest, where he studied under prominent artists such as Hans Makart and Gyula Benczúr. Tornai's style was heavily influenced by Makart's aestheticism and tonality known as Makartstil. The vibrantly colored and theatrical, large-scale paintings held a lasting effect on Tornai and are evident in the complex nature of many of his works.

    Tornai began his career painting numerous genre scenes, however after his travels to more exotic locales, his choice of subjects changed dramatically. His early visit to Tangier, Morocco, in 1890-91, provided him with new motifs to explore. In 1900 he exhibited to great acclaim many of the works he completed abroad at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Their sale, along with the sale of all of his belongings, provided Tornai with the financial support for extensive travels through China, Japan and India.

    In a letter to the present owner, Dr Bellák writes of this painting:

    "Regarding the present painting, it is typically characteristic of Tornai to depict a crowded, richly furnished interior. The sensually stretched out woman, and several types of human characters are also typical of a Tornai composition. The painting is related to the picture called In the Harem, which was at auction at Sotheby's, London, November 27th, 1991 (oil on canvas, 142 x 211 cm, lot 121).

    The London painting is nearly identical not only regarding its size but also regarding its composition. Nearly all the motifs and characters remind us of the present painting, although there are some variations in some details. The most characteristic difference is the posture of the central female nude. In the present painting the figure is turning backwards to look at the viewers, whereas the nude is facing the viewers in the London picture. The other difference can be observed underneath the kneeling figure in the foreground. Instead of the colorful, reddish rug of the London picture, the kneeling slave showing jewelry appears situated on the bare marble floor or on a grayish colored rug.

    This kind of self-repetition that can be observed in these two compositions is not entirely foreign to Tolnai's art. We know of several compositions which have slight variations. This is mainly due to the growing demand for those paintings popular at the time, therefore the artist had to create variations, which did not differ much. It is difficult to tell which one was painted earlier but because of the similarities in their quality, it is most likely that they were created at the end of the 1890s or the beginning of the 1900s, roughly at the same time."

    Despite the popularity of this composition, it cannot be found in any of the records of exhibitions held by Tornai. It can be assumed that the painting was sold right after it was executed and it remained in private hands ever since.
    The painting is in its original artist-designed frame.

    A letter of authenticity from Dr. Gábor Bellák accompanies this lot.
Gyula Tornai (Hungarian, 1861-1928) The new necklace 53 3/4 x 83 3/4in (136.5 x 213cm)
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