De Mazia Art Brings $2.38 Million

Posted: May 26, 1989

Twenty-two American paintings from the collection of the late Violette de Mazia, who taught art appreciation at the Barnes Foundation in Merion for 60 years, sold for $2.38 million yesterday at Christie's auction house in New York.

That amount, added to the $5 million paid earlier this month for eight impressionist and modern works and $644,000 paid in April for de Mazia's furniture and furnishings, brought the proceeds from de Mazia's estate to more than $8 million. Still to be sold are a half-dozen paintings and de Mazia's house in Lower Merion.

De Mazia, who died in September at the age of 89, was a longtime assistant to Albert C. Barnes, multimillionaire creator of a popular medicine. The foundation that he established in 1922 houses one of the world's foremost art collections.

De Mazia stipulated in her will that her estate be used to establish the Violette de Mazia Trust, with the income supporting Barnes Foundation publications, art education and scholarships.

None of de Mazia's American paintings that were sold yesterday topped the $1.65 million paid May 11 for her Matisse study for Le Danse, the mural that fills the lunettes in the main gallery at the Barnes Foundation. However, an oil by Thomas Hart Benton, The Beach, sold for $495,000, well beyond its $300,000 presale high estimate. The work, 40 inches by 50 inches, was painted in 1920-21.

Maurice Prendergast's 10-by-13-inch oil Promenade, depicting strollers in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, sold for $330,000. The same artist's Bathers and Strollers at Marblehead, a slightly larger watercolor, pastel and gouache, sold for $253,000.

Barnes and de Mazia formed friendships with many of the artists whose work hangs at the Barnes Foundation, particularly Prendergast and William Glackens. Among the seven works by Glackens in de Mazia's collection, a 13-by-9-inch painting of a woman in a red dress called Lacing Her Shoe sold yesterday for $104,500, more than twice its high estimate of $50,000. A portrait of a young woman with red hair, said to be de Mazia herself, sold for $19,800.

Three watercolors by Charles Demuth, another Barnes friend and a native of Lancaster, brought a total of $172,700.

Demuth's The Animal Tamer Presents, a theatrical picture with a purported self-portrait in the front row of the audience, brought the highest price - $99,000.

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