Vladimir Putin’s first painting fetched 37 million rubles ($1.14 million) at a charity auction in his native St. Petersburg last night.
The Russian prime minister’s picture of a frosty window made the highest price of 30 works on offer. Buyers showed support for the artists and the sale’s chosen charities, two hospitals and a church that is being restored in Putin’s hometown.
“The painting shows another aspect of a great personality,” its buyer Natalia Kournikova said. She just had to buy it because of its creator and will put it on display in her Kournikova gallery, she said.
Organizers said the evening sale showed that the economic crisis has not ended some rich Russians’ desire for good deeds.
“What difficulties in our country can anyone be talking about if we have generous people like this,” said Igor Gavryushkin, head of the foundation that organized the auction. “No one expected such staggering results.”
The auction tallied 70 million rubles, more than triple the 20.5 million rubles raised last year.
Putin’s work featured a frost-encrusted window framed by embroidered curtains and the Russian letter “u,” for “uzor” (pattern). He produced the painting in collaboration with local artist Nadezhda Anfalova during a Dec. 26 visit to the city and prominently inscribed his signature in the upper-left corner.
The 30 pictures, each featuring a different letter, were loosely based on “Christmas Eve,” a story by 19th-century author Nikolai Gogol, and were painted on woolen cloth, a reference to another Gogol story, “The Overcoat.”
Russia’s prime minister beat out other local favorites, including St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko’s “Blizzard,” which went for 11.5 million rubles to Alexander Yevnevich, chairman of retail chain Maxidom, with his daughter Maria bidding for him.
The other top-selling lots included a painting by Father Frost, the Russian Santa Claus, which was sold for 4 million rubles, while the work of Vadim Tulpanov, head of St. Petersburg’s legislature, fetched 1.6 million rubles.
A painting by opera soprano Anna Netrebko was bought for 1.1 million rubles.
Putin, 56, is a former KGB colonel who succeeded Boris Yeltsin as president in 2000 before stepping down from the post last May.
During his tenure, Putin helped along the ascendance of other natives of St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-biggest city, including President Dmitry Medvedev and Alexei Miller, chief executive officer of OAO Gazprom.
The prime minister enjoys an 83 percent approval rating, according to the latest poll available from the Moscow-based Levada center.