Madame de Portas 1925

Full-length portrait en face, standing, her right arm resting on an armchair, her legs placed in front of each other, looking towards the viewer, but not directly at him. She is wearing a red, sleeveless silk dress with a v-shaped neckline. The dark hair is short or tied at the back of the head, on the ears large gold earrings. Background: stylized vast landscape in brown tones, above it a gray sky.

Oil on canvas 200 x 124 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams
Unknown private collection.

Margarethe de Portas, née Weiß (Weiss), remarried Brünner, 13.8.1902 Vienna to ?? (date of death unknown, but after July 1986).
Born as daughter of Adolfo Weiß (Adolf Weiss) (1874 Vienna - 1956 Lisbon), Portuguese Consul General in Vienna and Ellen W., née Wurmser (1876 Mannheim - ??). On 29.5.1923 marriage to the Portuguese banker Carlos Fabeiro de Portas, divorce date unknown. Remarried to Alexander Ferdinand Karl Brünner (1883-1974), probably after 1930. Alexander Brünner was married in his first marriage to Martha Beatrix B., née Burian, whom Adams portrayed twice (1905 and 1923). Racially persecuted, the couple emigrated to England in 1938 (residing in London until at least 1957). Margarethe Brünner returned to Vienna at an unknown date and lived in an apartment in the 13th district. In 1986, the 84-year-old attended the opening of the Adams exhibition at the Akademie Schillerplatz and also gave a television interview. After that, her traces disappear.

The portrait of Madame de Portas, which Adams painted in 1925 on his own initiative and at his own expense, is undoubtedly one of his major works and captivates with its Rembrandesque muted coloring as well as the sitter's southern charm and cool elegance. (The sitter gave an explanation for this in a 1986 television interview: He [Adams] "courted me and he ‘chatted’ so many things that I didn't like," which is why she coolly directed her gaze into the distance). The painting caused a sensation at the 1925 exhibition at the Künstlerhaus Vienna and was much discussed and also published several times in newspapers and magazines. (Originally called "The Spanish Woman", the identity of the portrayed as a Viennese and daughter of the Portuguese Consul General Adolf Weiß was only later corrected, Die Stunde 25.6.1925 p.6). It received the People's Prize, i.e. was chosen by democratic vote among the visitors of the 1925 Künstlerhaus exhibition as the best work exhibited.

The painting remained in the possession of Adams, who must have appreciated it very much, because it was the only painting he sent to Pittsburgh in 1927 for an exhibition at the Carnegie Institute, Dessauer, 1927, p.17). It passed from his estate to his son-in-law and the stepmother of his two granddaughters, with whom it remained until 1986. After the Adams exhibition, it was put up for auction at Sothebys in London (auction 2.10.1996 lot 178) to pay the care costs of Adam's granddaughter Nina, who survived in hiding in Belgium during the war (because of her trisomy 21 disorder and her Jewish mother she was doubly endangered) and remained there in good care until her death in 2010 (Elizabeth Baum-Breuer, Institute for Jewish History of Austria, 2019 edition, p. 79). (The family proceeded similarly with another of Adam's major works, Countess Karolyi, which was put up for auction at Christies London in 1987.) As usual at auctions, the purchaser of the portrait is unknown.
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Exhibited

1925 Künstlerhaus Vienna (EL Vol.74 #3126).
1927 Carnegie Institute Pittsburgh, USA.
1986 Academy Schillerplatz Vienna 1986, Viennese Society in Portrait, Catalog No. 53.

Literature

Schaffer/Eisenburger 1986, exhibition catalog #53 (w. color ill.)

APH, catalog raisonné JQA 1995, p. 195, cat.#162, ill.#107.

Provenance

Estate of the artist.
Until 1996 Frank family (relatives of the artist), Vienna.
Auction Sothebys London 2.10.1996 Lot 178.
Unknown private collection.

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