Portrait of Wally

I went to see “Portrait of Wally” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage this morning: It’s the Egon Schiele painting on display here for three weeks as part of a legal settlement. (In the late 1930s, a Nazi collaborator stole the painting from a Viennese art dealer; the full back story is here.) It’s a lovely work for artistic reasons; I posted a detail so you can see the brushstrokes, though the color struck me as more vibrant in person. What I particularly enjoyed, however, was imagining what this painting has seen over the decades, and also reflecting on the power we invest in objects. As I was leaving—I didn’t reflect long—a man and a woman arrived. “There it is!” said the woman, beaming. “Is your name in the write-up?” asked the man. I should have found out if she had something to do with the settlement, but I didn’t want to spoil their moment. Besides, something about Wally herself—I don’t know who she is, and I don’t want to look it up—reminded me how nice a bit of mystery can be.

Egon Schiele (Tulln 1890 – 1918 Vienna), “Bildnis Wally Neuzil, 1912” (Portrait of Wally Neuzil, 1912), oil on wood, 32,7 x 39,8 cm, Leopold Museum, Vienna