As legend goes, Tamara de Lempicka’s Myrto, a painting of two naked, reclining women was stolen during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II by a German soldier who could not resist the allure of the image. It has not been seen since. Factum’s re-creation of this painting was directed by the fact that only one low-quality black-and-white image exists and complicated further because so few of Lempicka’s paintings from the period are in museums – most are in private collections.
Factum Arte's Lempicka studio
Painting Myrto using digital technology as an aid
Lempicka’s paintings are generally very flat, so there was no real need to worry about the texture of the surface. However, the fact that there were no colour references for the painting posed a more serious problem. It was also necessary to decide on dimensions for the re-creation, given that no exact information existed on this point. This was done in consultation with the Lempicka expert Gioia Mori, who suggested that we use the measurements (170 x 135 cm) for a painting of like proportions that had also belonged to the Pierre Bouchard collection.
Preparatory work for the recreation
To begin the re-creation, the black-and-white image was blown up to this size and printed on canvas. The colour was initially approximated by looking at images of other Lempicka paintings from the same period. Then, a good image of a very similar Lempicka painting was obtained. This image came with a colour chart i.e. it was possible to know what the ‘real’ colour of the painting was. This image was combined with the black-and-white image of Myrto, giving features such as the lips, the buildings or the dove, the colours of the other painting.
This new image was re-printed onto canvas. The re-creation was finished by painting over the digitally produced image. This was done not only to finish certain areas that had little colour information but also to give the re-creation the appearance and ‘life’ of real paint.
This final painted version was glazed in order to integrate the different elements of the re-creation and finish Myrto.
The final reconstruction
The recreations of Klimt's Medicine on the right, Tamara de Lempicka's Myrto in the background and The Tower of Blue Horses by Franz Marc on the left, on display at Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo, 2019