Staff at Christie's in London yesterday unveiled the most important painting by Henri Rousseau, the self-taught post-Impressionist, to come on to the market in 20 years.
The imposing portrait of Joseph Brummer, who was one of the most influential figures in the Paris and New York art worlds earlier this century, was commissioned for 300 francs.
Brummer was a Hungarian who arrived in Paris penniless. He began his artistic career by offering to sweep the floor of Matisse's studio and as a stonemason to Rodin.
His days as a dealer began when he opened a shop selling Japanese woodcuts and tribal art. From there, with his brother, he eventually sold art and antiquities to major collections, including that of W Randolph Hearst and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
It was said that a visit to his 'shop' was always an exciting event. But he was known to ignore anyone who was not passionately interested in art.
The portrait whose background foliage is reminiscent of the jungle pictures with which Rousseau is most associated, has been on loan over the past 50 years to major museums in New York, Houston, Hamburg and Basle.
The seller is an anonymous European collector.
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