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MYSTERY OF THE LOST LEMPICKA

MYRTO (1929)

Stolen in Paris by a Nazi officer

MYRTO” – TAMARA DE LEMPICKA, THE WOMAN WHO DEPICTED AN ERA

Tamara De Lempicka is among the most iconic and revolutionary of artists. Few more than she have attained the status of a symbol of her times;a period spanning a vast change in the role of women, which De Lempicka was talented enough to capture on canvas. De Lempicka possessed the talent to maximize the allure of her female models and celebrate the sensuality and vitality of the woman’s figure.With her powerful and smooth figures, chromatic synthesis, linear design and metal draperies, Tamara De Lempicka soon attained the status of a “star” in the art world of 1920s Paris.

Gioia Mori, Tamara de Lempicka Expert
Tamara de Lempicka, Kizette on the balcony (1927)
Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of Dr. Boucard (1928)
Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of a man, Tadeusz Lempicki (1928)

Myrto”, completed in 1929, embraces the distinctive lines of the artist’s beliefs: exaltation of sensuality and women’s emancipation. Two naked women embrace after an amorous meeting.

For many this painting is no more or less than a self-portrait of Tamara De Lempicka together with her first lover Ira Perrot.This work displays all of De Lempicka’s technical abilities as she transforms bodies into sculptures with her knowing use of chiaroscuro and enchants the spectators with her representation of seductive but glacial and inaccessible women.

Exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon d’Automne in 1929, the painting was immediately snapped up by Dr. Pierre Boucard, principal collector of the Polish artist’s work, for his private collection, where it remained on view until the arrival of the Nazis in Paris.

Tamara de Lempicka, Kizette on the balcony (1927)
Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of Dr. Boucard (1928)
Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of a man, Tadeusz Lempicki (1928)
November 1937: Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering, leading a procession of Nazis to the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF AN ICON

Paris 1940. The German troops invaded France, transforming the capital into a pleasure park for the Nazi élite.The Moulin de Fidel, the villa where Dr. Boucard kept Tamara De Lempicka’s “Myrto”, was requisitioned and became the residence of high-ranking SS officers. From that day on all traces of “Myrto” were lost.

There are two hypotheses regarding its whereabouts. The first focuses on the German officers living in the villa and suggestes that one of them, enamored of the work, might have spirited it away. The second theory regards its legitimate owner, Dr. Boucard himself, who may have moved “Myrto” to his yacht anchored in the South of France, to save it from falling into the hands of the Nazis.

November 1937: Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering, leading a procession of Nazis to the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich.
Christopher Marinello (Art Recovery International) and Vincent Le Gall, Cultural Heritage and Archives, Le Plessis-Robinson
May 1945: US soldiers carrying some of the priceless collection of paintings discovered in an Austrian castle.

The first of these theories is the more credible. Investigators tend to discount the theory that the work was moved, given the small size of Boucard’s yacht, which would probably not have been sufficient to house the whole collection.The possibility that the work was subject to a Nazi theft was, on the other hand, confirmed by De Lempicka herself, who scribbled on the back of a photograph (kept in her own records) of the picture “Stolen by the Nazis”.

Though its disappearance took place more than 70 years ago, most theories suggest that “Myrto” was not destroyed and that is either in the hands of an unknowing collector or is in

the possession of someone who knows very well what its history is but is keeping quiet for fear of the media onslaught.

May 1945: US soldiers carrying some of the priceless collection of paintings discovered in an Austrian castle.
Gioia Mori, Tamara de Lempicka Expert
Factum Arte begins work on the re-creation by painting over the black and white image of “Myrto” using an airbursh to create a smooth base layer of paint.
Advanced phase of the painting, process with airbrush
After the airbrushing, Jordi starts to physically paint on the canvas

A DIGITAL RENAISSANCE

For the re-materialization of “Myrto” the Factum Arte team had only a black-and-white photograph of the work and were unable to analyze De Lempicka originals from the same period, as the majority of those pieces are in private collections.

The first step was to decide on the dimensions of the work, an arbitrary decision since no data on this point has survived. Then a black and white image was printed on canvas to give the team its only guide copy of the painting.

Later the team came into possession of a color image of one of the artist’s works bearing great similarities to “Myrto”. The color palette used in this work provided enough information to reach a clear idea of the real tones in “Myrto”.

Factum Arte begins work on the re-creation by painting over the black and white image of “Myrto” using an airbursh to create a smooth base layer of paint.
Advanced phase of the painting, process with airbrush
After the airbrushing, Jordi starts to physically paint on the canvas
Art expert Peter Glidewell with Adam Lowe and Jordi García Pons, Factum Arte
Advanced stage of the painting phase
Final stage of the painting phase
Different versions of the painting during the re-creation process

By combining the black and white image of “Myrto” with the tones of the color work, the team managed to capture and digitally reconstruct features and details such as the two women’s lips, the background buildings, the dove held by one of the figures, and thus reconstruct a realistic copy of the original work.

The final image was then printed on canvas and painted over by the Factum Arte team, who touched up some areas to lend greater realism to the re-materialization. Lastly, a hand of varnish was spread onto the re-created version of “Myrto” to even out the different elements more completely.

Advanced stage of the painting phase
Final stage of the painting phase
Different versions of the painting during the re-creation process

RECREATION OF
MYRTO

Digital Recreation of Tamara de Lempicka’s “Myrto” (1929)
2017 Pigment and gesso on canvas
Recreation by Factum Arte