Lot #983b: Untitled Portrait of a Young Person

One of several finished by unsold portraits found in his Rue d’Richat studio after he died, Étoiles presumably painted this piece in September or late August, approximately one month before his body was found. The frame is one of several he purchased in June, along with a canvas that he bought in July–approximately 30cmx30cm.

The subject, though, is the cause of much speculation. High-browed, dark-haired, with a sharp chin and an arch expression, the subject is strangely androgynous, with their ultimate identity being used as evidence for many theories about Étoiles’ sexuality. Either way, the subject is surely young, in their early twenties at the latest, and has strikingly green eyes.

No one matching that description was found when the police were searching for leads in Étoiles’ death before it was declared accidental, but Green-Eyes figures prominently in several theories regarding the artist’s death, playing the role of everything from femme fatale (or homme fatale) to hapless victim.

Either way, the painting was found in the frame backwards, with Untitled Still Life of a Bloodied Dagger (Lot #983a) in the forward-facing position. Much has been made of this by scholars, though Étoiles commonly doubled up his paintings in this way for reasons that remain unclear, and none of the other doubled paintings found in his studio (#982a & #982b, Untitled Still Life of Sausage on a Cutting Board and Untitled Portrait of a Street Dog) or in his sister Margot’s apartment (#981a & #981b, Untitled Still Life of Full Moon Over the Seine and Untitled Scene in a Parisian Clothing Shop) have excited any such speculation.

Nevertheless, the identity of the subject, and the meaning of the expression on their face, has long been seen as the key to understanding who or what ripped the artist’s throat out while he lay in bed after a night of heavy drinking.

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