Hilde Radnay 1910

Description of the picture: see below.

JQAW# P_1910_170
Oil on canvas (partially damaged) 130 x 195 cm
Signature: lower left: John Quincy Ɑdams 1910 (indistinct) and lower right: John Quincy Ɑdams
Private collcection Austria.

Large format full-length portrait of actress Hilde Radnay, half reclining on a chaise longue. Her gaze is directed to the left into the distance, her face predominantly visible in profile, her lips slightly curled. Her right hand, whose elbow rests on a shelf with decorative objects (silver goblet, cassette, bouquet of flowers as well as a blue blanket), in turn supports her head, which is slightly tilted to the right. The left hand rests in her lap. The left leg is laid over the right, the feet appear naked at the end of the robe. Radnay wears a rather loose white caftan with golden borders on the edges, embellishments on the chest and low neckline. Her right arm is encircled by a thin, sheer fabric.

Hilde Radnay (life dates unknown) was an actress who appeared in the silent films "Der Millionenonkel" (director Hubert Marischka, 1913), "Der Viererzug" (director Carl Wilhelm, 1917), "Der Mandarin" (director Fritz Freisler, 1918), "Schicksal" (Felix Basch, 1924), "Gehetzte Menschen" (director Erich Schönfelder, 1924), "Rasputin" (director Viktor Gersik, 1925) and "Eine Dubarry von heute" (director Alexander Korda, 1927) (Filmography Courtesy of Günter Krenn, Austrian Film Museum). She was a member of the Deutsches Volkstheater in Vienna and worked at the Vienna stages from as of 1911 (Wasagasse 33, 9th district, Bühnenjahrbuch 1911). In 1918, she may have married a certain Mr. Roth, as she is listed as "Radnay-Roth" in Lehmann's Wohnungsanzeiger (which lists her at various addresses in Vienna as of 1909). Her reputation does not seem to be without controversy, as she is described in Adam's 1986 exhibition catalog (Schaffer/Eisenburger, 1986, p.10) as "the not-so-serious Hilde Radnay."

Her rather prominent lower jaw, which is also clearly visible in photographs, has been faithfully reproduced by Adams. A number of photographs of Radnay are preserved in the Austrian National Library and in the Theater Museum. These were taken by various Viennese photographers, including the famous Madame d'Ora (Dora Kallmus), first published in 1908 (Dr. Moniker Faber, Photoinstitut Bonartes, personal communication), see cross-references. The latter apparently liked to work with Hilde Radnay as a mannequin (Fritz&Tötschinger, 1993).

The sitter is most likely placed in the painter's studio, as some accessories can also be found in other paintings by Adams: The silver goblet on the tray, as well as the wreath of leaves on it and the garment Radnay is wearing, are all also present in the 1907 portrait of the actress Lilly Berger (see cross-references). The blue fabric hanging from the shelf at Radnay's feet and the box lying on top of it (which at first glance resembles a photo camera because of the handle on the short end) form a compositional counterweight in the left half of the picture to Radnay's upper body in the right. The image is further characterized by contrasts between foreground and background: the foreground and the sitter are executed in light tones, while the background is much darker. The light hitting the actress from the left (and casting the shadow of the goblet on the gray wall) enhances the brightness of the white dress and its drapery. The barefootness and the seemingly light clothing in which Adams portrayed Hilde Radnay is conspicuous and was also partly seen as an affront by contemporaries (for example in the Neues Wiener Journal of November 13, 1910 (p. 20).

Perhaps also because of the negative reviews, the painting is listed in the Künstlerhaus entry books as unsold and as having been returned to John Quincy Adams personally. The asking price was 12,000 crowns, which is about the median value of Adams's portraits and representative of the prices for sought-after painters in general at the time (for comparison, Klimt's portraits fetched about 10,000 to 30,000 crowns (Schlögl, 2012, p.51 ff.). The painting was probably purchased directly from the artist after the exhibition by an unknown person. In December 1923 during the hyperinflation, the painting was offered at the auction house S. Kende in Vienna for 1.8 million crowns. It is likely that on the occasion of this auction the painting found its way into the Viennese collection, in which it is still today.

Catalog entry: Dr. Christina Bartosch, recollect, Vienna


1910 Künstlerhaus Vienna, autumn exhibition (EL 55 1910/11 #2579).


APH, Werksverzeichnis JQA 1995, p. 100, cat.#68,(no ill.)

Bühnenjahrbuch 1911. Kind information from Claudia Mayerhofer and Christiane Mühlegger-Hehnhapel, Theatermuseum Wien.

Walter Fritz and Gerhard Tötschinger, Maskerade: Kostüme des österreischen Films, ein Mythos, Vienna, 1993.

Schaffer/Eisenburger 1986, exhibition catalog, p.10.

Michaela Schlögl, Klimt mit allen fünf Sinnen, Vienna, 2012.


21.12.1923: Auction S. Kende Vienna, lot 1, "Portrait of a Lady as Madame Recamier." Probably bought at auction there by the ancestors of the present owners.
Private collection, Vienna.