Above: Experts examined the Eva Mudocci painting at St. Olaf College on Mon., Oct. 1. Photo credit: Will Cipos.
The possibility of an unknown Edvard Munch painting here in Minnesota is enough to make anyone scream.
On Monday, experts from the New York/Philadelphia-based Scientific Analysis of Fine Arts (SAFA) collected samples from an unfinished portrait of British violinist Eva Mudocci, which has hung at St. Olaf College for decades, to determine if it’s a Munch. The results will be available in six to eight weeks.
Tuesday from 4-5 p.m. in the Viking Theater at Buntrock Commons, Oles (St. Olaf folks) and the public can view “Eva” in person and learn more from SAFA experts discussing their process.
The painting was donated to St. Olaf in 1999 by alumnus Richard Tetlie as part of a 2,000-piece art collection. Tetlie purchased the painting for $10,000 from a dealer named Poul Rée, who bought it in 1959 from an auction house in Copenhagen. The painting was originally owned by Kay Nielsen, who knew Mudocci.
Tetlie often purchased works that were unauthenticated. Previously, a painting of his thought to be by El Greco, an artist of the Spanish Renaissance, proved not to be.
“Eva" may be a different story.
The new investigations began after Mudocci scholar Rima Shore approached St. Olaf's Flaten Art Museum, requesting access to the painting and files. Her research showed trustworthy correspondence and auction records that point to the existence of this unfinished painting, which could fill in the gaps of its history of ownership.
Shore's research confirmed when Rée purchased the painting, which was the missing link in the painting's history. Becker Nelson said that they believe the painting was made sometime between 1900 and 1904, but it is most likely the painting would have been made in 1904 since Mudocci and Munch did not meet until 1903.
Munch had a romantic relationship with Mudocci. According to British publication Studio International, the two met in Paris in 1903. Inspired by Mudocci, he made the famous lithograph "The Lady with the Brooch." They were lovers until 1908-9, and remained in contact until 1927.
While there are apparently no known oil portraits of Mudocci by Munch, he tried several times to paint her, according to the violinist.
"He wanted to make a perfect portrait of me but each time he began on an oil painting he destroyed it, because he was not happy with it," Mudocci is quoted in "Edvard Munch: Graphic Works from the Gundersen Collection," published by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. "He had more success with the lithographs, and the stones that he used were sent up to our room in the Sans Souci Hotel in Berlin accompanied by a note that said: "Here is the stone that fell from my heart."
"That is why some have their doubts about the painting’s authenticity," said Flaten Museum of Art Director and Curator Jane Becker Nelson.
The scientists from SAFA will look at pigments and binding agents, giving them additional clues about the painting's history, and answers to this artsy mystery.
Photo credit: Will Cipos.
Photo credit: Will Cipos.