LONDON - Sotheby’s May sales of Russian art – to be held in London on 28th, 29th & 30th May – will once again bring to the market a plethora of rare and important works by Russia’s preeminent artists and craftsmen from the mid-18th century to the early avant garde. In particular, this May’s sales will be distinguished by the fact that so many of the works are fresh to the market, having rarely – if ever – been seen in public before. Such is the story of one of this season’s star lots, Vereshchagin’s The Spy, the whereabouts of which have remained unknown for over 120 years. This season’s sales will also be distinguished by a group of exceptionally rare and important examples of the work of Mikhail Vrubel, one of the leading members of the Abramtsevo workshop, the all- important centre for the Slavophile movement during the 19th century.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM SOTHEBY’S LONDON EVENING SALE OF IMPORTANT RUSSIAN ART, MAY 28th
Sotheby’s forthcoming evening auction of Important Russian Art in London on 28th of May, will bring together museum-quality masterpieces spanning important genres in Russian art, from superb 19th century landscapes to the early avant-garde - including works by Vasily Vasilevich Vereshchagin, Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova and Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky.
Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova, Still Life (Bluebells) (est. £3–4 million)
Still Life (Bluebells) is rare example of Goncharova’s early work and has been extensively published in monographs on the artist. A fragment of her famous 1909 painting, Bleaching Linen (The State Russian Museum), is depicted in the background. An exploration of Primitivism and Post-Impressionism, the present work also reflects the important influence of Henri Matisse. This museum-quality work is among the most significant paintings by the artist ever to be offered at auction.
Vasily Vasilevich Vereshchagin, The Spy (est. £800,000-1,250,000*)
A recently rediscovered work by one of Russia’s most sought-after 19th century artists, Vasily Vasilevich Vereshchagin, will highlight the sale. A monumental canvas, The Spy is one of the most stirring and dramatic images from his series of paintings on the subject of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878. The Spy was included in the artist’s successful 1889 solo exhibition which toured America and was sold in the culminating auction at the American Art Association sale in New York in 1891. It has been in a private American collection since the 1950s.
Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky, Zhelty buket (est. £300,000- 500,000)
This 1918 masterpiece has not been on public exhibition since 1925. The sophisticated palette and Cubist techniques reflect the important influence of Braque during this highly sought-after period in Konchalovsky’s life, and showcase the artist’s approach to still life painting at its most radical.
Alexei Petrovich Bogoliubov, Venice By Moonlight (est. £250,000-450,000)
Bogoliubov’s Venetian cityscapes were exhibition highlights in Russia and Europe during his lifetime. This dramatic depiction of San Giorgio Maggiore by moonlight is one of Bogoliubov’s finest evening views of the city ever to appear at auction.
FURTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM SOTHEBY’S LONDON EVENING SALE OF IMPORTANT RUSSIAN ART, MAY 28th
Mikhail Fedorovich Larionov. The Bathers (est. £300,000-500,000)
The Bathers was a gift from the artist to the Italian Futurist poet, Carlo Belloli in 1964 and has remained in the same family ever since. An exceptionally rare example of Larionov's early work, The Bathers belongs to an experimental stage of Larionov's journey towards Rayonism. Until now, it has only been known to art historians from the black and white image in the 1961 Arts Council of Great Britain Exhibition catalogue.
Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev, Boy At Harvest Time (est. £250,000-350,000)
Boy At Harvest Time is one of several portraits commissioned by the Goldsmiths, avid collectors whom Grigoriev met in New York in 1923 after his landmark exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. The present work depicts their young son, Frank, and is being offered directly by descendants of the sitter.
Boris Anisfeld, Portrait of Feodor Chaliapin (est. £300,000-400,000)
This recently rediscovered portrait of Russia’s greatest bass singer was painted in 1916, prior to Anisfeld’s emigration. It was published in the catalogue of his famous
1918 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and has remained in a private American collection since the 1920s. Rarely do contemporary portraits of Chaliapin of such quality appear outside museum collections.
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE GROUP OF FIVE CERAMICS BY MIKHAIL VRUBEL FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Offered as part of Sotheby’s London evening sale of Important Russian Art on May 28th
These exceptionally rare ceramics were produced in the 1890s at the Abramtsevo workshop where Vrubel pioneered new firing techniques. Inspired by Russian folk tales and the operas of Rimsky-Korsakov, the present group includes some of the most sophisticated pieces from this crucial Russian Art Nouveau movement to remain in private hands.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM SOTHEBY’S LONDON SALE OF RUSSIAN PAINTINGS ON MAY 29th
-- An important collection of paintings by Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev to be offered at auction for the first time --
Never before seen on the international market, this important private French collection comprises eleven drawings and eleven paintings by the pioneering Russian artist Alexander Yakovlev. Acquired directly by the parents of the present owner from the artist’s sister and opera star, Sandra Yakovlev, many of the works in the collection depict the artist’s experiences of the legendary Croisière Jaune.
Yakovlev played a pivotal role in this landmark 20,000 mile expedition across Central Asia and China in the early 1930s, documenting this uncharted territory through a series of paintings and drawings.
Highlights from the collection include Polo Game at Misgar, dramatic depictions of the Karakoram mountains and a superb group of drawings tracing the journey from Lebanon to Peking.
A ravishing view of the port at Calvi which was last exhibited at the Galerie Renaissance in Paris in 1930 will lead this group (est. £60,000-80,000).
Further highlights from the Russian Paintings day sale include Pavel Tchelitchew’s Blue Boy With String painted in 1927 and Boris Sveshnikov’s Tracks In The Snow, once owned by the renowned collector, Norton Dodge. The sale comprises over 160 lots and is expected to reach in excess of £3.9 million.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM SOTHEBY’S LONDON SALE OF RUSSIAN WORKS OF ART, FABERGÉ AND ICONS ON MAY 30th
An Important Silver Tureen, Cover and Stand from the Petrovskii Service, circa 1750 (est. £200,000- 300,000)
Struck with the mark of Court silversmith Johan Friedrick Köpping, the silver Tureen is exquisitely applied with fruit, foliage, scrolls and shells and bears the arms of the future Emperor Peter III, Grand Duke Peter Feodorvich. Commissioned by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna for the splendid grand ducal residence of her heir, the Grand Duke Peter Feodorvich, the silver passed through the Imperial Collections and to the State Fund before being sold in the 1920s. This tureen is only one of six listed in the 1907 inventory of the Imperial silver service, and is one the most important piece of Imperial silver to appear on the market in recent years.
A Fabergé silver-gilt and enamel Frame, workmaster Anders Nevalainen, St Petersburg, Circa 1890-1895 (est. £30,000-50,000)
This heart-shaped frame was formerly in the Collection of Princess Nadeja Bariatinsky, a Lady of the Honour of the Bedchamber to Their Imperial Majesties the Sovereign Empresses. With the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the princess fled to her estate, Selibar, in Yalta, but later refused to leave her residence with the rest of her family when the area was evacuated. On December 20 1920, the elderly Princess, now in a wheelchair, was murdered by the Bolskeviks along with her daughter and son-in-law on the balcony of her home. The enchanting Fabergé frame is being sold by her great-great-grand daughter.
A parcel-gilt silver and enamel Icon of St Vasily Veliky, Ovchinnikov, Moscow, 1872 (est. £80,000-120,000)
Representing the kneeling saint Vasily Veliky in front of an altar with his hands raised in prayer towards the holy spirit. The saint’s vestments and the curtains on the right are applied with coloured champlevé enamel, the background is engraved with rays emanating from the Dove of the Holy Spirit, and the borders are decorated with chased ornaments and two blue, white and red enamel roundels.
A Fabergé jewelled gold, enamel and hardstone Bonbonnière, Workmaster Michael Perchin, St Petersburg, circa 1890 (est. £20,000-30,000)
The motif of the shell was a popular one among Fabergé’s workmasters. Carved of striated brown agate as a neritiform mollusc shell, the hinged lid of black enamel is inset with a green-enamelled gold rouble coin of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna dated
1756 and bordered by rose-cut diamonds. The bonbonnière is from the collection of the Late Lady Mairi Bury, youngest daughter of the 7th Marquess of Londonderry.
A rare and unusual silver-gilt and champlevé enamel Cask, Khlebnikov, Moscow, 1879 (est. £50,000-70,000)
Realistically cast as a double barrel with a divided interior, this rare cask is decorated with a later presentation plaque modelled as a cloth overlay inscribed from a consortium of Russian civil engineers to their French colleagues and dated 1889. The ends are enameled with the drinking inscription ‘The barrel overflows with wine while the owner’s head with wit’, and the taps are formed of cast horse heads below dugas functioning as serving levers.
*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium