Franz von Stuck painting rediscovered after century out of public eye

Franz von Stuck

Franz von Stuck (né Franz Stuck, German, 1863-1928), ‘Lauschende Faune (Listening Fauns),’ circa 1899, oil-on-panel, as depicted (left) in a black & white photograph in the 1904 edition of the German art journal ‘Die Kunst,’ and (right) as it appears today, in need of professional cleaning to reveal its full image. To be offered without reserve on Sept. 23, 2022 at Soulis Auctions in suburban Kansas City, Missouri. Estimate: $75,000-$125,000

LONE JACK, Mo. – A Met-exhibited artwork by the influential German Secessionist painter Franz von Stuck (né Franz Stuck, 1863-1928) has been rediscovered after being out of public sight for more than a century. It will be auctioned on September 23 by Soulis Auctions, with absentee and Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.

Exhibited by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1909, ‘Lauschende Faune’ will be offered without reserve by Soulis Auctions on September 23    

Titled Lauschende Faune (Listening Fauns), the circa-1899 oil-on-panel with a distinguished history of museum exhibition is now known to have spent the last 60 years in a Kansas City residence. There, it was displayed by two consecutive generations of the same family, who were unaware of its background or true value. Soulis Auctions will sell the painting without reserve, per the family’s instructions.

Franz von Stuck

Black & white photograph of Franz von Stuck’s circa-1899 oil-on-panel ‘Lauschende Faune (Listening Fauns)’ as it appeared in the 1904 German art journal ‘Die Kunst’

Until now, Lauschende Faune, whose alternative title is Belauscht (translation: “overheard” or “eavesdropped on”), had been documented in black and white only, first appearing in the German art journal Die Kunst in 1904. In 1909 it was depicted in The International Studio – An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art as part of a nine-page article by Christian Briton titled “The Collection of Hugo Reisinger: German and American Pictures.”

Franz von Stuck

Page 38 of the 1904 German art journal ‘Die Kunst’ in which ‘Lauschende Faune (Listening Fauns)’ appears in black & white, revealing how the image might appear once the painting is cleaned

In 1909, the painting was exhibited for seven weeks at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Remains of the label from that exhibition remain on verso. The exhibition’s catalog identified it as being the property of Hugo Reisinger, a banker, businessman and prominent art collector who was married to the daughter of St Louis, Missouri, brewery baron Adolphus Busch. Reisinger was also a member of The Met’s board of directors at the time.

Later in 1909, Lauschende Faune was exhibited at both the Chicago Institute of Art and the Copley Society in Boston; but after that its next known museum appearance was not until 1919, when it was displayed at the Dallas Art Association’s First Annual Exhibition: Contemporary International Art.

Franz von Stuck

Franz von Stuck (German, 1863-1928), ‘Lauschende Faune’ (Listening Fauns), circa 1899, oil-on-panel, in its present state

“The ten-year hiatus was almost certainly attributable to the unfortunate effect World War One had on German art in general,” said Dirk Soulis, owner of Soulis Auctions. “There can be no other explanation, because in 1909, Stuck was at the pinnacle of his career. He was famous as the cofounder of the Munich Secession, had won a Gold Medal at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and had even been awarded the Order of Merit of the Bavarian Crown in 1906. He was also in demand as a teacher, with students like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Albers. But even years after the First World War ended, German art remained unfashionable and never had time to recover because of Germany’s aggressive role in World War Two.”

The Art Loss Registry has been instrumental in tracing the early years of Lauschende Faune’s ownership, starting with Galerie Heinemann, Stuck’s primary representative, which received it on August 9, 1899. The gallery sold the painting five days later to Hugo Reisinger, who is known to have been its owner until at least 1908. The next change in ownership was noted in the catalog for the aforementioned 1919 museum exhibition in Dallas, where the owner was shown as Edward A Faust, a prominent St Louis restauranteur who was connected to Adolphus Busch by marriage.

“And that is where the trail ran cold,” said Soulis. “For the next one hundred years, the painting was neither exhibited nor published. No one knew where the painting was located or who owned it until 2021, when it was rediscovered in the Kansas City mansion of the late Colonel and Mrs S D Slaughter.”

The Stuck painting was found together with a large British equestrian artwork which had documentation showing the Slaughters had purchased it in St Louis in 1964. No receipt for the Stuck was found, however the Slaughters’ grandsons, who jointly own the painting, have confirmed its existence in their grandparents’ home beginning sometime in the 1960s.

Franz von Stuck

Label on verso from Munich framer Hans Irlbacher

The 36½ by 33½-inch (47 by 44 inches framed) painting is presented in its original gilt frame custom-crafted by Hans Irlbacher of Munich, with the atelier’s label on verso. “The next owner may choose to have the painting professionally cleaned, which would reveal the image as seen in the photograph that appeared in the 1904 edition of Die Kunst. We’ve decided to leave the painting untouched so the winning bidder can decide if and where they wish to have it restored.”

Lauschende Faune (Listening Fauns) will be auctioned without reserve on September 23, 2022. Soulis Auctions has set the pre-sale estimate at $75,000-$125,000 with a minimum opening bid of $50,000.

For additional information about the painting, call 816-697-3830 or email Dirk@SoulisAuctions.com. View the September 23, 2022 auction catalog online and bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

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By Catherine Saunders-Watson, Auction Central News International