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Hungarian Masterpiece Rediscovered In ‘Stuart Little’ Sells For Record Price

By Ferenc Sullivan // 2014.12.15.

A painting by Hungarian painter Róbert Berény (1887-1953), recently found after 90 years of it thought missing, has been sold for 70 million forints (EUR 226,500), the auctioneer said. The sum is the highest amount ever payed for a work by the artist.

Hungarian art historian Gergely Barki spotted the “Sleeping Lady with Black Vase” while watching television with his daughter at Christmas 2009. The painting was used on the set of the US comedy Stuart Little. Hugh Laurie, who stars in the film, was moved to tweet last week that he had been a “little hurt to discover the foreground performances couldn’t hold the attention, but still, what an honour”.

Barki later learnt that the painting had been used on the set of soap operas, too. It took him five years to bring the painting back to Hungary.

The Sleeping Lady was the avant-garde artist’s principle work from 1928 and it portrays his second wife, Eta Breuer. The Virág Judit gallery offered nearly 220 items at its annual pre-Christmas auction at the Budapest Congress Centre on Saturday evening, among them the Berény painting.
Hungary’s stormy 20th century played a part in the scattering of Berény’s works – and relatives. Barki, who has rediscovered many of the country’s lost paintings, believes the painting is likely to have been sold in 1928 in Hungary “because that was when it was last exhibited and, as most of the buyers were Jewish, it probably left the country as a result of the war”.

As well as being an artist, Berény was a composer, psychiatrist and inventor. “He was one of the last of the Renaissance people, who not only had a deep interest in many things, but also a talent,” Sos said. “He had a magical persona and even registered several patents for movie projectors at the German patent office.” Berény was an innovator too, he added, claiming that “his use of the goat symbol in 1906 might have prefigured Chagall’s”.

One of Hungary’s best-known avant-garde painters, Berény spent several years as a young artist in Paris exhibiting alongside Henri Matisse, conversing with Gertrude Stein and even hosting the usually reclusive Hungarian composer Béla Bartók for Christmas. His portrait of the composer was the most celebrated of his early career.

The art historian’s amazing discovery while watching the 1999 children’s film has been widely reported in the international press.

via hungarymatters.hu / theguardian.com
photo: abcnews.go.com