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Art Anecdotes : The Rediscovery of Berény’s Sleeping Lady with Black Vase

Through ART ANECDOTES, Art From Us brings you funny, heart-warming and sometimes heartbreaking stories that shape Artists and their work. Today we look at the story of The Rediscovery of Berény’s Sleeping Lady with Black Vase.

Art From Us and Divvya Nirula bring to you a curated collection of Art related events, from suspected murder, to love affairs, to grand theft and curious cases of creation through ART ANECDOTES. Join us on this fun-filled ride of exploring and reliving these art-tales.

A Curious Tale

Róbert Berény (1887 – 1953) was a famed Hungarian artist, known mostly for his posters. Berény was a member of Nyolcak (The Eight), which was Hungary’s first avant-garde painter group. He is also considered responsible for bringing Cubism and Expressionism to Hungary in the early 1900s.

One of Berény’s work’s, an Art Deco portrait of the artist’s wife entitled Sleeping Lady with Black Vase (1926) had mysteriously disappeared over time. It was last seen in 1928, .

Sleeping Lady with Black Vase : A Twist in the Tale

In 2009 a man named Gergely Barki was spending Christmas Eve with his daughter. The little girl insisted on watching the children’s classic film Stuart Little (1999). The doting father obliged. The movie went on and the duo giggled at the tales of the mouse in the city. Through the course of the film however, there were certain scenes that caught Barki’s attention. All these scenes happened to be set in front of a fireplace where hung a beautiful painting – one that had not been seen in almost a century. It was Berény’s Sleeping Lady with Black Vase!

Now it’s worth mentioning that Barki was an art historian and researcher at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest. Although Barki had never seen the painting in the flesh, he was immediately able to recongise it from a photograph he had once seen. Excited, Barki bombarded the entire cast, crew and production units of the movie with emails asking them about the painting and its current whereabouts.

Barki’s attempts to locate the painting would have been in vain if it weren’t for a set designer who replied to is email two years later. The former film assistant told Barki about how she had purchased the painting from antiques shop in Pasadena, California for $500. The antique dealer had procured the painting from art collector Michael Hempstead, who in turn had bought it in San Diego at a charity sale for $40. She further explained that she was in possession of the painting at the time. Without further ado, Barki paid her a visit and indeed  it was the authentic work.

Auctioning the Painting

In 2014, Berény’s painting was auctioned in Budapest at the Virag Judit auction house and fetched a handsome some of $285,700.

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