MOSCOW - Sotheby’s is exhibiting 28 important and rare highlights from its forthcoming November auctions of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York and Russian Art in London, at the State Historical Museum in Moscow on the 24th and 25th October, 2012. Combined, the works are estimated at in excess of $31 million which represents among the highest value exhibitions staged by the Sotheby’s in Moscow. The exhibition – led by a Russian Icon commemorating an Imperial ‘miracle’ and Pablo Picasso’s portrait of Marie-Thérèse - Femme à la Fenêtre – has been generously sponsored by Credit Suisse, AG.
Discussing the exhibition and Credit Suisse’s sponsorship, Mikhail Kamensky Director General of Sotheby’s Russia and CIS, said: “Our exhibition in Moscow this October is set generate tremendous interest, both among our Russia-based collectors and members of the public too. On view are not only important highlights from the November Sales of Russian Art in London - headlined by an exquisite Icon that memorialises one of Imperial Russia’s most emotive historical moments - but the exhibition also showcases exceptional works by Impressionist and Modern Art Masters, such as Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, which will be offered for sale in New York next month. Our established relationship with Credit Suisse, AG is extremely important to Sotheby’s, and we are very grateful to them for their continued and generous sponsorship of our exhibitions in Moscow.”
Michael Knoll, Head of Private Banking, CJSC “Bank Credit Suisse (Moscow)”, said: “Credit Suisse is delighted to continue the longstanding partnership with Sotheby's to bring these historical masterpieces to Russia. The bank values tradition and innovation and has been helping cultural institutions make outstanding achievements in their area for decades now. Credit Suisse supports Sotheby’s efforts to promote appreciation of fine arts for all generations.” Russian Works of Art, Fabergé And Icons Sale (London: 28th November, 2012):
An Important Imperial Silver-Gilt and Cloisonne Enamel Icon of Christ Pantocrator, Ovchinnikov, Moscow, 1884 – commemorates the miraculous survival of Emperor Alexander III and his family when the Imperial train derailed disastrously near Borki in 1888. 21 members of the Imperial retinue died and in the richly-appointed dining car, the Emperor’s dog Kamchatka was killed instantly at his master’s feet. The Emperor, who held up the collapsing roof of the car to allow his family to escape, was later presented with this Icon by his elite guards. Grand Duchess Olga recalled the terrible scene of the aftermath in her memoirs: “I found myself at the bottom of a steep slope which the carriage had rolled down. I got up onto my feet and looked back. I saw bleeding people tumbling and falling down after me … It was dreadful … I thought all my loved ones had been killed.” In both state decrees and church sermons this event was presented as proof of God’s divine intervention. Inscribed ‘[From the] Guards [to] Their Imperial Majesties’ and ‘On the Occasion of the Miraculous Rescue during the Imperial Train’s Accident’, the Icon speaks potently of devotion and of the bond between Tsar and people.
Hung in the chapel at Gatchina – the Emperor’s favourite imperial residence – the icon was kept as an important family relic of deep personal significance. Exquisitely enamelled with floral detailing, this rare and richly historical work displays the most filigree craftsmanship and is saturated in Romanov history. After the Revolution this powerfully emotive Icon was believed to be among many of the Imperial family’s belongings that were dispersed on the European antiquarian market. It carries an estimate of £180,000-250,000. Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale (New York: November 6th, 2012)
Marie-Thérèse - the subject of Pablo Picasso’s Femme à la Fenêtre (est $15-20million) – has her assured place in history as the artist’s personification of love. Picasso’s paintings of the young woman are acclaimed as the greatest achievements of his career. Marie-Thérèse inspired works of extraordinary visual impact and sensual tactility. This work, which comes to auction for the first time in November, is perhaps Picasso’s most ardent portrayal of his young lover, and one of the most colour-saturated in his oeuvre. As is the case for many of the works now considered Picasso’s greatest, Femme à la Fenêtre remained in the artist’s possession until his death. Compositionally reminiscent of the Mona Lisa – the clue in the folded hands – Marie-Thérèse is here clothed with an enigmatic serenity and dignity. Yet the encroaching presence of a new muse - Dora Maar, the ‘weeping woman’ of the war years series - begins to be plainly felt in certain, key iconographic traits. Femme à la Fenêtre fascinates as a powerful amalgam of the two women, who engage here in symbolic dialogue on the canvas.
Chaise et boite à chapeaux (est. $2-3 million) exemplifies an important series of Cubist-inspired still life paintings by Jean Pougny, product of the later 1910s. It was in the celebrated collection of Mr and Mrs George Costakis when it was first published in Herman Berninger’s Pougny catalogue raisonné in 1973. George Costakis, who worked for the Greek and Canadian embassies in Moscow, was an avid art enthusiast and, over the course of several decades, he amassed the world’s most important grouping of Russian avant-garde art. The significant presence of a folded newspaper Le Journal in this work not only alludes to the fractured words and images that commonly appeared in Russian avant-garde painting, but also to the earlier still life compositions of Pablo Picasso, who famously included fragments of Le Journal in several paintings and collages, never revealing its entire title.
Marc Chagall’s La Femme du Peintre ($2-3 million) is a quintessential example of the artist’s sensuous pictorial assemblage, gathered around the theme of love and marriage. Chagall’s childhood love, Bella Rosenfeld and his second wife, Vava – respectively rooted in, and read through, the landscapes of Russia and Southern France – are the core presences of the painting. The domestic, the agrarian, Russian and Mediterranean landscape – all crucial elements of Chagall’s art – are rendered here in the matrix of intense colour and spatial experimentation found in the artist’s strongest work.
Van Dongen’s La Dame du Chien (est. $2-3million) (left) synthesizes all that was chic and desirable about the 1920s - drawing the eye on to the Parisian cafes and cabarets, and the cast of exotic dancers from which Van Dongen drew his inspiration. Painted as van Dongen’s name became the by-word of the French art world, and held in one family’s private collection for over 80 years, the painting comes to auction for the first time in November.
Painted in 1925, Tamara de Lempicka’s Nu Sur La Terrasse (est. $2-3million) (below) channels an unapologetic brand of female sexuality which mirrored her own personal sexual expression. Few before Lempicka had attempted such representation; yet she is also pursuing ‘a metier which did not exist any longer’ – seeking inspiration – which may also be called a salacious thematic risk-taking – from Ingres, and from the 16th century Mannerists Pontormo and Michelangelo.
Never before seen at auction, Personnages, Étoiles (est. $1.5-2 million) was executed by Joan Miró at the height of his international celebrity, in 1949. A cast of Surrealist figures evoke the constellations of the night sky, linking the work to the small-format gouaches called the Constellations, exhibited to wild success at the Pierre Matisse gallery in New York some years previous. Acquired direct from the same gallery, Personnages, Étoiles expresses – in its dancing surrealist festoon – the particular zeal and optimism which became Miró’s hallmark in a sombre post-war Europe. Important Russian Art Sale (London: 26th November, 2012):
Banda Woman with her Child (est. £500,000 - 700,000) by Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev was painted in Paris in 1926 - on the artist’s return from the famous Croisière noire expedition across Africa. It was exhibited in 1926 at Hôtel Jean Charpentier in the ground-breaking exhibition of his complete African portfolio. Numerous sketches by Yakovlev of African mothers with their children exist, yet this is his only known oil painting on the subject. It is the first important work from the Croisière noire expedition to be offered at auction since the sales of Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo (£2,505,250) and The Kuli-Kuta dance, Niamey (£937,250) at Sotheby’s London in 2010.
Portrait of Praskovia Mamontova (est. £300,000-500,000) is the most important portrait by Valentin Alexandrovich Serov ever to have come to the market. It has remained in a private collection since it was last exhibited in Stockholm in 1919. Painted when the artist was just 22, the portrait of Praskovia Mamontova, aged 14, is one of Serov's earliest finished paintings and dates from the same year as his famous portrait of the sitter’s young cousin, Girl with Peaches (Portrait of V.S.Mamontova), 1887, now in The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. A former owner of this exceptional work was the businessman and well-known art collector, Vasily Georgievich Vinterfel’d (1878-1937. Paintings from his collection of early 20th century Russian art now hang in the Russian Museum and the State Tretyakov Gallery.
Showcasing Sergei Sudeikin’s renowned talent for theatrical design, Russian Winter Carnival (est. £200,000-300,000) comes to auction in November for the first time. It was previously in the collection of the Russian émigré Broadway producer, Morris Gest (1875-1942). Gest owned sixteen works by Sudeikin, all of which were exhibited at the 1923 exhibition of Russian Art at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, including the present work.
Rapallo–Strasse (est. £150,000-200,000) belongs to a famous series of oils painted by Wassily Kandinsky in Rapallo on the Italian Riviera - where he stayed with his partner Gabriele Münter between December 1905 and April 1906. The present work was exhibited at Der Sturm Galerie in Berlin and has remained in private Scandinavian collections since. The intensity and clarity of colour and simplification of forms that characterise these Rapallo sketches represents a crucial transition between the artist’s early paintings and the chromatic abstraction of his post-1910 work, and reflects the impact of the Fauves’, whose first group exhibition Kandinsky had recently seen at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. Painted soon after Kandinsky visited Lviv and Odessa where he witnessed the 1905 Decembrist Revolution, Rapallo–Strasse is an exceptional work from this rare early period.
Executed circa 1906, The Poet (£500,000-700,000) is among the earliest works by Martiros Saryan ever to come to auction and was published in Apollon magazine in 1913. It was originally in the famous Moscow collection of Nikolai Ryabushinsky (1877-1951) – son of a millionaire, bon viveur and passionate collector, he was also an important driving force behind the Golubaya roza and Zolotoe runo exhibitions, a progressive artistic editor and key in bringing to Russia important Fauvist works by Derain, Braque, Matisse, Marquet in the early 1900s. The fantastical creature in The Poet appears in other early works by Saryan, The Comet, 1907 and By the Sea-Sphinx, 1908.
An exceptional 1886 panorama of Constantinople by Ivan Aivazovsky will be offered from a private collection (est£700,000-900,000). This moonlit view of the Golden Horn is one of his finest paintings of this city he so loved that he returned to eight times over the course of his life. ‘There is probably nowhere in the world as majestic…’ wrote Aivazovsky of Constantinople, ‘When you’re there you forget about Naples and Venice’.
The exhibition also includes highlights from the collection of the legendary Hollywood composer, Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979), to be offered for sale by Sotheby’s in November. Central to the collection is a group of works by Annenkov which includes iconic portraits of Tiomkin’s contemporaries such as Sergei Prokofiev, Vsevolod Meyerhold and Maurice Ravel, as well as designs for Annenkov’s own production of Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose and a monumental abstract piece which Tiomkin commissioned from the artist in 1968. A highlight of the group is Yuri Pavlovich Annenkov’s Set Design for Lola Montes (est. £15,000-20,000).
Sotheby’s will also offer in November a group of works by Vladimir Weisberg (1924-1985), all of which come from private collections. In the canon of Russian non-conformist art of the 1960s and 70s, the painting of Vladimir Weisberg stands out ideologically and qualitatively from that of his contemporaries. His delicate compositions, executed in a subtle palette of muted shades, have been compared to the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi.