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Lot #87 

František Muzika (1900–1974)

Nike I

oil on cardboard
29.5 × 25 cm
Estimate: 1,500,000 CZK - 2,500,000 CZK
Starting price: 1,000,000 CZK
Hammer price:
1,300,000 CZK

This meticulous, precisely constructed painting is an excellent example of the work of František Muzika, a classic of the Czech interwar avant-garde, representing the post-war imaginative surrealism with which he was intensively involved. Niké I stands at the beginning of a larger set of works, which was executed between 1956 and 1957. This subject-matter helped him further evolve the popular theme of the naked female body, which gradually changed with the development of his work. It is based on the model of the Hellenistic statue of Nike of Samothrace, a part of the Louvre collection, Paris, since 1883. Muzika was able to see her as early as the 1930s on book covers of the new Czech translations of the works of Plato. However, the motif of a naked female torso, captured here from a half-profile, is not unusual in his work. He depicted it often and with pleasure, typically behind a transparent fabric, with which also the ancient muse on this painting is partially covered. The combination of a delicate drapery and white cobwebs create together the veined texture of marble. Organic shapes and structures surrounded by soft, modest light on an ambiguous monochrome background are a beautiful example of Muzika’s work of the 1960s. This is a unique and brilliantly mastered painting on the edge of figuration and abstraction. Although smaller in format, Niké I is a truly mesmerising work – not only for the chosen subject-matter, but also for the precise execution and pensive expression that is typical of post-war art. The painting is listed in the artist’s inventory under No. 779 and published in his monograph (F. Šmejkal, Prague 1966, fig. 45, p. 73). Assessed during consultations by PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D., and prof. J. Zemina. The expertise by PhDr. K. Srp is attached.