A Rediscovered Masterpiece by Franz von Stuck at Auction

From Munich to Missouri: a work by Franz von Stuck that has reappeared after 100 years goes to auction.

Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), Listening Fauns/Overheard, around 1899, signed, oil on wood, in the original frame, approx. 114 x 120 cm. Photo © Soulis Auctions (detail)
Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), Listening Fauns/Overheard, around 1899, signed, oil on wood, in the original frame, approx. 114 x 120 cm. Photo © Soulis Auctions (detail)

Not seen for the last 100 years, a painting by Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), previously known only from black-and-white photos, has recently reappeared in an estate in Kansas City, Missouri. 

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The early masterpiece by the founding member of the Munich Secession and important representative of Symbolism is listed by the Art Loss Register under the title Lauschende Faune (Listening Fauns in English), while the German magazine Die Kunst entitled it Belauscht (Overheard in English) in a 1904 issue. Both are correct, as the painting, executed in oil on wood, shows a young woman in robes playing the cithara (an early version of a guitar) while two fauns (mythological creatures that are half goat, half human) listen at the top of the picture.

Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), Listening Fauns/Overheard, probably 1899, signed, oil/wood, in the original frame, approx. 114 x 120 cm. Photo © Soulis Auctions
Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), Listening Fauns/Overheard, probably 1899, signed, oil/wood, in the original frame, approx. 114 x 120 cm. Photo © Soulis Auctions

The scene looks more sinister than Franz von Stuck probably originally painted it on the panel, as the top coat has darkened over time. Otherwise the work is in very good condition and also has its original frame, which was executed by the Munich sculptor and gilder Hans Irlbacher according to a design by the artist, as evidenced by a corresponding label on the reverse.

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Label of the Munich sculptor and gilder Hans Irlbacher on the back of Franz von Stuck's painting "Listening Fauns". Photo © Soulis Auctions
Label of the Munich sculptor and gilder Hans Irlbacher on the back of Franz von Stuck's painting "Listening Fauns". Photo © Soulis Auctions

There is also an exhibition label from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Listening Fauns was exhibited in 1909. At the time, it was owned by German-American merchant and art collector Hugo Reisinger (1856-1914), who acquired it in August 1899 from Franz von Stuck's main dealer, Galerie Heinemann. Further exhibitions followed in Chicago and Boston in 1909 and in Dallas in 1919. Restaurateur Edward A. Faust of St. Louis, Missouri, was listed as the owner at the latter exhibition.

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It probably came into his possession through the family of Adolphus Busch, co-founder of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis, whose daughter Reisinger married in 1890. After the 1919 exhibition, the trail of the painting was lost for the next 100 years. 

Detail from Franz von Stuck's "Listening Fauns"/"Overheard". Photo © Soulis Auctions
Detail from Franz von Stuck's "Listening Fauns"/"Overheard". Photo © Soulis Auctions

How Listening Fauns ended up in a private home in Kansas City, where it was rediscovered in 2021, is unknown. However, it is said to have been there as early as the 1960s. On 23 September, it will go under the hammer at Soulis Auctions near Kansas City with an estimate of $75,000-125,000. Van Stuck's auction record was set in 2013 when Hercules and the Hydra sold for £505,875 at Christie's.

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