Girl from the Famous 20 Million Dollar Painting is Buried in Sinj

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Wally Neuzil was the muse of Egon Schiele, Austria’s most prominent figurative painter of the early 20th century.

A small grave marked 162/ D with a stone cross and a few broken blocks covered with moss in the Sinj graveyard has a very interesting story behind it, and on April 23, 2016, we share the story of Wally Neuzil, the muse of Austria’s most prominent figurative painter of the early 20th century Egon Schiele.

Wally Neuzil grave
Photo by Nikola Vilić

Wally is the lady from his famous Wally’s portrait, a painting which is now worth 20 million dollars.

Portrait of Wally is perhaps the best-known representation of Wilburga ‘Wally’ Neuzil, Schiele’s model, lover, and co-conspirator. The masterpiece, with her piercing blue eyes and an enigmatic grin, is often called the Viennese Mona Lisa while other paintings she posed for were Wally Neuzil in Black Stockings and Wally in Red Blouse with Raised Knees, all stunning works of art that have fascinated art lovers for decades.

Even though everyone knows what she looked like, we know very little of her life, and last year’s exhibition Wally Neuzil and her Life with Egon Schiele at the Leopold Museum in Vienna tried to shine a new light on this mystery woman.

Upon her father’s passing, Wally moved with her remaining family to Vienna in 1906 and met Schiele in 1911 when she was just 16 years old. According to old rumors from the art circles, she was Gustav Klimt’s model and perhaps even mistress before she met Schiele, however, any connection between her and the elder painter remains nothing more than salon gossip.

Being from a poor family, Wally had to start working at a very early age and she usually  registered herself as a salesgirl or mannequin, but never as an artist’s model, and for a very good reason. Artist’s models were often considered as, let’s put it mildly, women of loose morals, because many of them, including most models used by Klimt, were dubbing as ladies of the night. 

Soon after meeting Schiele, Wally became a lot more than just his model. Since she was quite business savvy, she who looked after his affairs, contacted collectors and gallerists, managed all administrative duties, and even delivered paintings. She even stood by him when he was arrested for allegedly kidnaping a minor. Shortly after his release, he painted the now famous Portrait of Wally and a Self-portrait with Physalis, and these works, still considered to be a pair, represented a turning point in his artistic career and a sign of his maturation.


Wally and Schiele


And, as all great love stories go, this one did not last long. Schiele proposed to Edith Harms who lived across the street from his studio and was more socially acceptable than „poor“ Wally. After Wally refused to keep seeing him after he wed, she left and never contacted him again. Schiele’s way of parting with his muse was to paint „The Death and the Girl“.

Wally Nazul then finished nursing school and after two years in a hospital in Vienna travelled first to Šibenik and then to Sinj where she worked as a nurse, far away from the art scene and the man who broke her heart. Unfortunately, she contracted scarlet fever and died on Christmas day in 1917 at the age of 24 and was buried in the above mentioned unmarked grave next to her last love, an Austro-Hungarian officer who took his own life after gambling away the wages of his entire platoon.

Wally, the girl whose piercing blue eyes grace the 20 million dollar portrait, might have had a short life ridden with tragic love stories, but at least she will no longer be in an unmarked grave in Sinj. Thanks to the Leopold Museum in Vienna that is now paying the annual grave fee, she will finally have her name carved in so that art lovers can come and pay their respect when in Sinj.


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