An Egon Schiele drawing found in a thrift store is valued at up to $200,000.
Egon Schiele, Reclining Nude Girl, ca. 1918. Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne.
In June 2018, Jane Kallir, the leading expert on Egon Schiele and the author of his catalogue raisonné, received an email from a man who believed he had found an original Schiele drawing at a Habitat for Humanity thrift store in Queens, New York. Attached to the email was a blurry photo, so Kallir requested that the man send a clearer image.
Kallir, who is also the director of Galerie St. Etienne, told The Art Newspaper that she gets many such notes from strangers claiming to have found a Schiele work, and that “Ninety percent of the time they’re wrong [. . .] Most of them are fakes—egregious copies.” When Kallir received a clearer image, nearly a year later, she thought it looked legitimate. She invited the man to bring the artwork to her gallery for a closer look.
Kallir verified that the drawing depicts “a girl who modelled for Schiele frequently, both alone and sometimes with her mother, in 1918” and was, in fact, genuine. Kallir even placed the work alongside two others that may have been drawn in that same modeling session. Kallir observed in her authentication of the drawing the specific cream wove paper and the type of black pencil used by Schiele. She also pointed out stylistic notes specific to Schiele, saying:
If you look at the way this girl is lying on her back, and you look at the foreshortening both on the rib cage and on her face, and the way you see that little nose pointing up—think about how difficult that is to do [. . .] There are very few people in the history of art who can draw like that.
The drawing is now on view at Galerie St. Etienne, and is valued at roughly $100,000 to $200,000. The man who found it said he will donate a portion of his proceeds to Habitat for Humanity when it sells.