Egon Schiele’s Mädchen mit Federboa

I have said before that exploring the concept of the erotic child in art is not necessarily pornographic, and the work of German Expressionist painter Egon Schiele is a good example of what I mean. Though he generally focused on adult women in erotic poses, he did sometimes paint young girls as well. Even at the time his work was controversial, and pieces like the following have only solidified the controversy.

I must confess that I do not generally like Schiele’s work. With their sharp angles, garish colors and attention to unpleasant details, his portraits frequently border on the grotesque. But Mädchen mit Federboa, despite its shocking content, is actually somewhat artistically restrained for Schiele. The colors are still bright, but other than the borderline clownish crimson smears at her cheeks, they don’t feel out of place or overdone. And the little girl is properly proportioned and not overly angular nor posed obscenely. Some have called this a masterpiece. That might be pushing it, but I do think it’s one of Schiele’s better pieces.

This painting, which was estimated to sell for somewhere between $660,000 and $880,000, went up for auction at the Ketterer Kunst in Munich, Germany in 2015. If anyone can track down how much it actually sold for, I would be appreciative.

Edit: A reader has generously responded with an answer to my query. (Thank you, Patricia!) The final sale price appears to have been around €625,000, which is approximately $770,000. So right smack in the middle of the estimate range. Nice! – Pip

Egon Schiele – Mädchen mit Federboa (1910)

4 thoughts on “Egon Schiele’s Mädchen mit Federboa

  1. Hi Pip Starr, I remember your article on the Die Brücke group, however it was more about the fascinating story of Fränzi than the artists’ work.
    May I ask you a question on your taste: do you dislike Schiele because his work is too suggestive and sexually explicit, almost always teetering on the verge of pornography (like in the example I have linked above) or is it rather his grotesque style that pushes you away?

    • You might say it’s a combination of the two. I don’t mind erotica in art if it’s handles tastefully. I’m less enthusiastic about the grotesque, although there are exceptions: horror-themed art, pop surrealism, things like that can appeal to me on some level. But Schiele combines these two aspects in a way that just feels over the top for me. It’s not necessarily the style either. I actually prefer Schiele’s contemporary Oskar Kokoschka, whose work is very similar but feels more restrained. There’s just something about Schiele’s work that suggests rot and decay, which some might say is the point, but I don’t think it was. It’s one thing to avoid romanticizing the human form, but Schiele seems to go in the opposite direction. His work isn’t simply unromantic; it’s downright anti-romantic. Again, that isn’t inherently problematic for me, but, well, I just don’t find his work very appealing. It’s difficult to quantify exactly what I don’t like about his art but I hope that comes close.

  2. I am somewhat surprised that it is the first time I have seen Schiele’s art on Pigtails in Paint. Unlike Pip Starr, I simply adore his work. I do agree, however, that despite flirty accessories (the bright red feather boa and blue stockings) the girl is one of the least Schielean portraits I know: her nudity is neither obscene nor provocative. While she does not seem prudish and not at all ashamed of her naked body, it is natural, pure and totally innocent. Her short hair cropped like a boy’s, rosy cheeks and a hint of smile, all give her an urchin quality, a tomboy look. Her straight pose is neither suggestive nor unnatural, rather a young female figure in the form of an academic nude.

    ‘Mädchen mit Federboa’ was painted around 1910, hard to believe it is so different in style than e.g. ‘Nude Girl with Arms Outstretched’ (1911), today on display at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemiszain in Madrid:
    https://www.museothyssen.org/en/collection/artists/schiele-egon/nude-girl-arms-outstretched
    Almost the complete opposite from the ‘Mädchen mit Federboa’, the girl looks coquettish and almost vulgar, definitely conscious of her budding sexuality. Ultra-feminine, wavy hair, piercing blue eyes, screaming red full lips and nipples (!), the racy pose with arms outstretched and the genitals drawn with almost anatomical precision, all invoke disturbing sexual overtones and grotesque, so characteristic for Schiele’s work.

    And finally, answering Pip Starr’s question, it seems that the ‘Mädchen mit Federboa’ was sold for €625,000 – however the final price was not confirmed:
    http://www.kettererkunst.com/press/2015/report428_429.shtml

    • Hi, Patricia. Thank you for your comment. I kind of go back and forth on Schiele, but mostly I tend to dislike his work. But I have no problem with those who do like it. The real beauty of art is that taste in it is subjective. Even though Schiele isn’t to my taste, I am interested in him and in the whole Expressionist movement. I have done articles on the Die Brücke artists, for example. I even own a book on Schiele, or used to. Not sure if I still have it. Thanks again! I also appreciate your answering my question.

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