Max Slevogt

Portrait sketch of an African


We are thankful to Dr. Karoline Feulner and Dr. Eva Brachert, GDKE/Landesmuseum Mainz/Max Slevogt Forschungszentrum, for kindly confirming the authenticity of this work. This portrait will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of oil paintings by Max Slevogt. Provenance: Bassenge, Berlin 30.11.2019, lot 8305; private collection, Saarland.


• Intimate portrait study revealing the trust between the painter and his model
• Balanced colour composition lends the image a calm and noble atmosphere
• Fascinating insight into Slevogt’s working process Black people can be found time and again in Slevogt’s oeuvre: the portrait of Mursi, a young Nubian whom the artist met on his trip to Egypt, dates back to 1914. Also during this trip, motifs such as “Pirates” (1914) emerged, which exoticises the black people shown – including Mursi.
Slevogt depicted Hassanó, who came from Somalia, in several images. In a half-length portrait from 1912 that can now be found in the Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, as well as in “Der Sieger” (The Victor) and associated preliminary studies of the same year, Slevogt uses the European-fantasy image of the “African”. The portrait offered here was created long before those of Mursi and Hassanó. It was probably drawn in Munich, where Slevogt lived from 1890 to 1897. While Hassanó and Mursi have only come down to us with their first names, the person depicted here remains anonymous: while the style indicates a private work, such as one that could have been created for fellow artists or friends, no black artist is known to have worked in Munich during this period. It is known that a black model was working in Munich at the end of the 19th century, presumably the man depicted here. Occasionally also drawn in nude sketches by Slevogt, this self-confident image captures the man behind the model. It is not known what the sketch was created for. Was it an intimate study for personal use, perhaps a gift, or was it payment for modeling?

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