News 2020

Et in Arcadia ego – Moll's excursions to Levanto


Palms near Levanto. c 1923
Oil on canvas
46.5 x 37.5 cm
Signed bottom left: Oskar Moll
Privately owned


In its 2019 autumn sale, the Berlin auction house Grisebach offered a hitherto unknown painting by Oskar Moll under the title Palmenlandschaft in Levanto – incorrectly, since this title had already been given to another of the Breslau Academy professor's paintings, listed since 1975 as no. 232 in the monograph by Dorothea and Siegfried Salzmann. The work now at auction is quite clearly a new discovery, with the temporary working title Palmen vor Levanto.

Every spring between 1922 and 1926, artist couple Oskar and Marg Moll travelled to the Italian commune of Levanto. This village – which grew from an ancient settlement set in a small valley with slopes covered in olive-trees, pines and palms – lies directly on the Ligurian Sea and has a small beach. The mountain ridges run directly down to the coastal strip, to form the promontory of Mesco and the Punta di Levanto.

During at least five periods spent in Levanto, Moll painted numerous watercolours and gouaches, as well as almost a dozen colourful oils capturing this attractive coastal village from different perspectives. In this picture, the Italophile had found an elevated viewpoint almost like a garden, whence he could survey a panorama of part of the commune. The viewer looks out from between flowering bushes over palms, down to the roofs of the village, which stands out against the blue of the sea as a cluster of white with flecks of red. The captivating quality of Moll's painting lies in its distinctively natural abstract, ornamental style.

Along with the painting's original stretcher frame, important information on its history and provenance is lost. Besides the ascertained paintings (now in private collections) dating from his time in Levanto, there are two further views whose present whereabouts are unknown. At the time, these pictures were purchased by the Hessian State Museum in Darmstadt and the National Museum in Breslau (now Polish Wrocław) and confiscated in 1937/38, during the Nazi era. There exists, however, no photographic documentation of these works, and only vague titles. It may have been the incomplete provenance of this bright southern landscape that discouraged potential buyers from purchasing it at the auction on 29 November 2019.