Photo Courtesy of Sybaris Collection

I was recently at a night auction, when, in it, I discovered Joy Laville’s work. The British born painter, who was married to Mexican writer Jorge Ibargüengoitia, was until then only a name to me. Her paintings intrigued me instantly due to their beauty and elegance.Two days after, I was offered to see some pieces by Laville and I was already excited.

Dealer knocks at my door, -we haven’t met before. He is holding a wooden box/crate/portfolio and opens it to show me a mixture of two masterpieces and a brilliant story altogether.

I was presented with watercolor on paper, “The Moment” and a unique oil on wood, “Flower vendor”. Each piece was accompanied by two documents: a letter and a certificate of authenticity.

Joy Laville dedicated the pieces to art patron and gallery runner Peggy Guggenheim, who in the 1940s was the Director of “The Arts of This Century” gallery located at 30 West 57 Street, New York City, where she supported artists like Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell, among many others.

Photo Courtesy of Sybaris Collection

In the letters, signed by Laville, you can read:

“This work is for you. I have enjoyed working for your beautiful gallery “Art of this Century (…) A pleasure greeting you Ms. Guggenheim, Joy Laville.

In each letter, Joy sketched the main theme of her paintings, so that in one you can see a flower bouquet on a table and a woman’s silhouette in the second one. And she described the measures and techniques of her pieces.

The second document is the Certificate of Authenticity issued by Peggy Guggenheim when Spanish collector Manuel Suárez y Suárez was buying the pieces. Here is the document to read:

“This is a magnificent work of the painter Joy Laville. I like it very much, in it, you can appreciate the pastel colors that so characterize the painter, as well as her simple yet extraordinary landscapes”.


Photo Courtesy of Sybaris Collection

Although the paintings are not dated, the certificates of authenticity show that the pieces were sold in 1947. There is very little information about the relation between Guggenheim and Laville yet these documents indicate an affiliation existed.

“Simple yet extraordinary” as Guggenheim referred to the work, is a perfect description of these pieces. Laville’s themes and her beautiful techniques are absolutely delicate as her writing was.