A first painting made by Egon Schiele when he was still a teenager representing his uncle and his guardian has been rediscovered after its location had remained unknown for more than 90 years, an Austrian museum announced on Thursday.
Leopold Czihaczek at the piano (1907) was rediscovered in a private collection in Vienna. It will be on public display on long-term loan at the Leopold Museum in Austria, which includes the largest collection of works by the expressionist painter. The museum is trying to raise funds to acquire it, a statement announcing the rediscovery said.
In the painting, Czihaczek is shown in profile playing the piano in a dimly lit interior. He became Schiele’s legal guardian after the artist’s father died of syphilis in 1905. Czihaczek worked as a railroad official and was a recurring subject in much of Schiele’s early work. Known as a preeminent figure in the Viennese modernist school, Schiele was prolific in his output before his death from the Spanish flu at the age of 28.
Leopold Czihaczek at the piano was known from Schiele’s early studies of the painting and a black-and-white photograph from 1930 that shows the small canvas hanging among other works in a living room. The painting was listed in a 1972 catalog raisonné on the artist. It passed to an acquaintance of Czihaczek, Gustav Huber, who kept it until his death in 1945. It then passed into the hands of another Austrian private collector. The work eventually came to the museum’s attention after its owners inquired about its restoration.
In a statement, Verena Gamper, director of the Leopold Museum Research Center, said the work “reveals impressionistic tendencies” reminiscent of Schiele’s early work. She added that the formal qualities of the work convey “an effect of being fully immersed in the music”.
An image of the piece will be part of the museum’s non-fungible token (NFT) collection of 24 paintings and drawings by Schiele, produced in partnership with LaCollection, an online platform that works with museums to sell NFTs of works by their permanent collections. Proceeds from the NFT collection will be allocated to the restoration of the painting and to the museum’s acquisition fund.