Manet sketch could fetch pounds 3m: Sotheby's to auction outline of a masterpiece inspired by nightlife of the Folies-Bergere

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The Independent Online
SOTHEBY'S has scored a coup in securing the sale of an important Manet painting that relates to one of his most famous masterpieces, the Bar at the Folies-Bergere in the Courtauld Institute Galleries, London, writes Dalya Alberge.

On 28 June it will sell in London a sketch in which the French master mapped out the entire composition of the final image: such is the sketch's importance that it is expected to fetch about pounds 3m.

On the surface, there are substantial differences between the two compositions. However, X-of the Courtauld picture reveal that the exact composition of the first version lies beneath the final image. Manet had transferred it to his canvas before reworking it extensively.

The painting is one of many in which Manet so vivaciously captured something of the essence of gay Paris, through its bars and brasseries. The sketch was painted in 1881, a year before the final composition.

Working from life, he had feverishly sketched in the fashionable Folies-Bergere, as popular then with sophisticated society as with prostitutes. Back in the studio, with one of the barmaids posing as his model, he reworked his drawings.

A contemporary who visited Manet's studio noted how 'although he worked from the model, he did not copy nature at all closely'. This is evident in the final composition, where the positioning of the figures and their reflections in the mirror are illogical. For example, in the Courtauld composition, the barmaid is disorientatingly placed too far from her reflection; the Sotheby's sketch is more likely a mirror-of what the artist saw.

Melanie Clore, a spokeswoman for Sotheby's, said that the first version exuded a greater spontaneity than the final image.

The sketch is being sold by the family of Franz Koenigs, a German investment banker who settled in the Netherlands after the First World War and who was killed in a train accident in 1941.

His major collection of Old Master drawings was 'acquired' by the Nazis - for Hitler's proposed museum in Linz - and then 'liberated' by the Red Army. Mr Koenigs had purchased the picture in 1928.

Its provenance can be traced back to the artist's widow, Suzanne Manet, who gave it to a Parisian collector, Edmond Bazire, in 1883, after her husband's death. It then passed through the hands of the major Impressionist dealer Durand-Ruel in 1893, and Gottfried Eissler, a collector in Vienna.

For the last 30 years, the picture has been on loan to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

(Photograph omitted)

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