Portrait of a lady with vase of flowers 1907


for picture description see below.

JQAW# P_1907_030
Oil on canvas 130 x 110 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams 907.
Private collection, USA.

Half-length portrait in side view, seated, in a pensive pose. The sitter rests in a high-backed armchair at a brown Biedermeier table on which she rests her left elbow, the fingers of her left hand supporting her head in a pensive pose. Her gaze is serious, turned toward the viewer and looking directly at him. Her right hand rests on her thighs. The sitter wears a black dress decorated with dark purple flowers at the neckline, with a dark fur stole over it. Her jewelry is simple: a wedding ring, a ring with a black oval stone, and pearl ear clips. On the little table there is a bright cloth or gloves. In addition, there is an eye-catching dark blue flower vase on the table, in which a dry-flowers arrangement in muted dark colors is placed. In the background there is a plain wooden armoire and a bare dark gray wall visible.

Offered for sale by a private owner in the USA via ebay at the turn of 2021/2022, this painting presents a number of mysteries. The owner identifies the sitter as Countess Marie von Bienerth-Schmerling, which is impossible since she (life dates 1895-1935) was only 12 years old in 1907. (Marie von B-S was later a writer and tragically ended her life by suicide after the failure of the operetta Theodora, which she produced and for which she wrote the libretto). Perhaps the attribution means her mother Anka von Bienerth-Schmerling, née von Lazarovics de Nagy et Kis Szredistyé (1869-1937), which would roughly fit the portrayed person in terms of age (38 years), but due to a lack of similarity (except for the eyebrow part) with the only surviving portrait of Anka B-S (cf. image comparison in the cross references) and especially due the complete absence of the attributes of an aristocratic lady portrait (salon background, fashionable clothes and expensive jewelry) in the present portrait also this attribution is considered unlikely. Another reason to reject this attribution hypothesis is that Anka Bienerth-Schmerling died without descendants in 1937 (her husband Richard died already in 1918, her son Rudolf died in 1921, her daughter Marie in 1935). Her entire estate was put up for auction at the Dorotheum Vienna on November 26, 1937, but an Adams portrait was not among the estate.

The portrayed person is therefore more likely to be situated in a middle-class milieu, and her clothing and jewelry indicate that she may have been in mourning at the time of the portrait (1907) (which, in turn, does not fit the known family data of the Bienerth-Schmerlings). One mystery is the 1907 (black) 1914 (red) sticker on the back of the frame of the painting. The sticker designates a painting that was exhibited at the Vienna Künstlerhaus and is also inventoried in its Einlaufbücher (incoming inventory), where the number 1914 from 1907, however, refers to a gentleman's portrait (Ernst Regenhart). An examination of whether the portrayed person possibly represents Ernst Regenhart's wife Luise (1859-1934) was negative, since a resemblance (hair color, facial features, age) is missing (see image comparison in the cross-references) and also a portrait of Luise is not mentioned in the detailed family records (photos, inventories) of the Regenhart family, which were reviewed by the descendants for this research. It is a fact, however, that the picture format (130x110 cm portrait and landscape, respectively) and the picture frame of the present lady portrait and that of Ernst Regenhart are identical, which suggests an erroneous exchange of the picture frames in the frame shop.

For this catalog, therefore, the painting is listed as "Portrait of a Lady with a Vase of Flowers" with the sitter remaining unidentified. The striking vase and the dry-flowers arrangement shown in the portrait are virtually identical to the flower vase depicted in the lost portrait of the artist's wife from 1905/06 (see cross-references) and is therefore also a fitting characteristic and designation for the present portrait of the artist.