Fenza Sobotka 1912
Full-length portrait sitting in left profile view. The sitter is sitting upright in a golden, throne-like antique Empire armchair with a single armrest on which her right hand is resting, playfully holding a long pearl necklace with her left hand. She wears a floor-length white shiny silk dress, with a purple-colored chiffon over it that reaches down over the armchair to the floor. Her brown hair is pinned up, and held in place by a black hairband trimmed in gold. The living room interior is represented by a brown parquet floor, a white wall and a tapestry curtain reaching to the floor, and a three-burner brass wall chandelier.
Oil on canvas, ca. 200 x 150 cm.
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams
Unknown whereabouts and ownership.
Illustration: Westermanns Monatshefte 9-11 1913, p. 95
Fenza Sobotka, née Cederbergh?, no further biographical data known.
The portrait, in the antique Empire style, depicts Fenza Sobotka, Adams' short-time sister-in-law. It was probably painted on the occasion of Fenza's marriage to Hanns (Hans) Sobotka (1877-1947), Adams' brother-in-law. The date of the wedding is unknown, but can be narrowed down to the period at the end of 1910 (2.11.1910 Hanns Sobotka's resignation from the Jewish faith, an act that preceded marriage in the case of his siblings like Alice Hauser) and the outbreak of war in 1914. (Valentin Sobotka reports in his memoirs Ways and Issues Retraced 1980, p.79, at the time of the outbreak of war: "Hanns' first marriage had recently ended in divorce."). It is possible that the portrait was created as early as 1911, which narrows down the short Fenza-Hanns Sobotka marriage to 1911/12 to 1913/14. After 1912 the traces of Fenza Sobotka disappear. Only in a newspaper photo from 1923 she is mentioned once (Wiener Salonblatt February 24, 1923 p.7, there identified as "Fenza Sobotka, née Cederbergh from Sweden"). Unclear sources also report stays in the USA, to where Fenza may have emigrated. Her life remains enigmatic and undocumented. The portrait remained with Adams (it is still documented in a studio photograph from about 1914), who published it widely (including as an art postcard), although the colors of these reproductions are nevertheless quite different (the chiffon appears alternatively as purple or also as bluish, the general hue of the image light to dark muted). It is likely that the painting was also in Adams' estate, but none of the existing sources (Künstlerhausarchiv, estate of Countess Walderdorff, research archive on the 1986 Adams exhibition) contain any reference to the portrait, which is therefore likely lost. If it still exists, the owner(s) are kindly asked to contact the catalog editor.
Portrait (Fenza Sobotka) as art postcard
Wiener Salonblatt 24.2.1923 p.7, "Fenza Sobotka, née Cederbergh from Sweden."
1912 Künstlerhaus Wien #357 (EL 57 1912/13 #1388, referred to as Portrait Frau F S), identified in the press as Portrait Fenza Sobotka (Wiener Sonn- und Montagszeitung 1 April 1912, p.11 and reviewed there rather critically).
APH, Werksverzeichnis JQA 1995, S. 107, Kat.#75 Abb.#54.
Unknown private collection.