Everything is in motion. The only calming elements in this disorderly setting are the two players at the back of the room. They appear to be eerily bodiless and lifeless in comparison with the objects around them. The interior, seemingly idyllic at first, turns out to have an underlying threatening quality: the colour of the objects extends beyond their outlines, the floor is curling, the walls seem to reach inwards and the chairs seem to be moving of their own accord. Vuillard considered the threat emanating from within a home a central topic of his art.
Mathilde Rathenau (1845-1926), née Nachmann, came from a prosperous Frankfurt banking family. In 1924 she informed the Städel that she wanted to donate a number of paintings that had belonged to her son Wather Rathenau (1867-1922) to the museum in his memory. Rathenau was Germany's foreign minister at the time of his assassination by the Organisation Consul in Berlin-Grunewald on 24 June 1922. He was born in Berlin in 1867, the son of the Jewish businessman Emil Rathenau, the subsequent founder of AEG, and his wife, Mathilde. He studied philosophy, physics and chemistry in Berlin and Strasbourg. The industrialist, writer and co-founder of the German Democratic Party was appointed foreign minister on 31 January 1922. The donation was not effected until after the death of his mother in 1926. Among the paintings, in addition to works by Fernand Khnopff, Max Liebermann and this work by Édouard Vuillard, was a self-portrait by Walther Rathenau, which was confiscated in 1937 as "degenerate art".
Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.
The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.
Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:
The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.
Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.
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