Karl Stauffer-Bern

Portrait of Lydia Welti-Escher,

1887, etching

signed proof impression


Karl Stauffer-Bern (Trubschachen 1857-1891 Florenz)

Portrait of the artist's star-crossed paramour Lydia Welti-Escher in three-quarter profile to the right with a Rembrandt hat


etching on firm copperplate paper

state I (of III), before the etched dedication was deleted

proof impression

23x14 cm. 

dated and monogrammed below: "7. Juli 87. St B."

verso with the estate stamp: "Aus dem Nachlaß Justizrat Johannes Maximus Mosse"

Magnificent, harmonious, and photographic-looking impression.

Condition: slightly yellowed and light-stained; remnants of paper from an old mounting on verso; further signs of age; otherwise in very good condition. 

Lehrs 34 I (of III)


Johannes Maximus (Max) Mosse (1857-1920), judgewhose estate was auctioned on October 27, 1920 in Berlin, at Amsler & Ruthardt; this etching, Lot 31, was there described thus: "Of utmost rarity" ["Von grußter Seltenheit"].


According to Max Lehrs, who was the author of the catalogue raisonne of Stauffer-Bern's graphic work, the portrait of Lydia Welti-Escher was the artist's last etching. The four copies known to Lehrs all date, as here, from July 7, 1887. On July 11, Stauffer-Bern sent Mrs. Welti-Escher her copy by post.

In 1888, under the sponsorship of his patrons, the Welti family, Karl Stauffer-Bern went to Rome to study sculpture. While there, he began an affair with Lydia Welti-Escher, daughter of Alfred Escher (railway magnate and co-founder of Credit Suisse) and wife of Friedrich Emil Welti, whose father was Emil Welti (a powerful government minister). The affair turned to love and a divorce from Welti was proposed, but Emil Welti contacted the Swiss Embassy in Rome and used his considerable influence to separate them. Lydia was placed in an insane asylum and Karl was jailed after being charged with kidnapping and rape. (The Daulton Collection contains ten autograph poems about death that Karl Stauffer-Bern composed while in prison in Italy.)  In May 1890, a full psychiatric report showed no sign of mental illness and Lydia was released. Karl's release followed in June, due to lack of evidence. She was returned to her husband, although she soon filed for a divorce, which was eventually granted.

In a state of despondency over the loss of his love, Karl suffered a nervous breakdown and spent some time in the San Bonifazio mental hospital. After his release, he attempted suicide by gun. The shot barely missed his heart and left him permanently injured. In January 1891, unable to work and apparently suffering from persecution mania, he committed suicide with an overdose of chloral hydrate. Lydia's suicide followed that December, by opening the gas tap in her villa near Geneva.



Jack Daulton

The Daulton Collection

Los Altos Hills, California