A Drawing Found in a Queens Thrift Store Turned Out to Be a Genuine Egon Schiele Worth as Much as $200,000

Talk about a thrifty shopper.

Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity.

An eagle-eyed thrift store visitor made the discovery of a lifetime last summer when he was browsing through discarded objects and ephemera at a Queens-based Habitat for Humanity store and stumbled upon an elegant line drawing. It turned out the work was by none other than Austrian artist Egon Schiele.

Jane Kallir, the director of Manhattan’s Galerie St. Etienne and the author of Schiele’s catalogue raisonné, told The Art Newspaper that the buyer, who prefers to remain anonymous, is a part-time art handler who has “got some art background—an eye.” Kallir, who has been authenticating Schiele works for decades, was initially skeptical of the find. She estimates that claimants who think they have a legitimate work by the artist are wrong “90 percent of the time.”

But this drawing, rendered in black pencil on a dark cream woven paper, was different. It shows a young girl lying prone on her back, with details that are characteristic of Schiele’s style. Kallir said that “the foreshortening both on the rib cage and on her face, and the way you see that little nose pointing up” are all indicators of the Austrian artist’s incomparable abilities.

Egon Schiele's <i>Reclining Nude Girl</i> (ca. 1918) was discovered in a New York City thrift store. Photo courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne.

Egon Schiele’s Reclining Nude Girl (ca. 1918). Photo courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne.

After closely inspecting the 1918 composition, Kallir deduced that the girl who modeled for the drawing was a frequent subject for Schiele and had appeared in around 22 of his works. Many of them were studies for his final lithograph, Girl, completed just before his death at age 28.

The drawing is now on view through October 11 as part of Galerie St. Etienne’s show “The Art Dealer as Scholar” alongside works by Käthe Kollwitz and Alfred Kubin. It is on sale at the gallery for a price between $100,000 and $200,000. If it sells, a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to Habitat for Humanity as a kind of karmic thanks.


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