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The Lucy Maxym Collection of Russian Lacquer & Art goes up for bid at Turner Auctions + Appraisals
Russian lacquer. "Scarlet Flower." Artist: L. Zuerkova. Size: 6 1/2 x 4 x 1 3/4 inches. Featured in Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales (v.2) by Lucy Maxym, page 13. Estimate: $400-600.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Turner Auctions + Appraisals will present the Lucy Maxym Collection of Russian Lacquer and Art on April 15, 2018. Offering over 100 lots, the online sale features Russian lacquer boxes, jewelry, icons, a Fabergé cigarette case, and reference materials. Acquired over 30-40 years, all items are from the personal collection of Lucy Maxym, a noted author and expert on Russian lacquer art. The sale also includes a selection of her silver items from Russia and Asia, an egg and other items in cloisonné, books and other collectibles.

Turner Auctions + Appraisals begins its online auction on Sunday, April 15, 2018, at 10:30 am PDT; items in the sale are available for preview and bidding now. The online auction will be featured live on four platforms: LiveAuctioneers, Invaluable, eBay and Turner Auctions + Appraisals’ free mobile app, which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Apps ("Turner Auctions"). All are easily accessed through ‘Upcoming Auctions’ at the company’s website.

Lucy Maxym was born in a small town in Russia near the Ukraine and emigrated to the U.S. as an infant. Portending Lucy’s travels to come, the family first lived in New York, then Japan and then San Francisco, where Lucy grew up. After she married Stephen Maxym, the couple returned to New York, where they had two children, Eda and Robert, and lived for over 45 years before returning to California. Her husband Stephen was principal bassoonist for the Metropolitan Opera Company Orchestra for over 35 years. He was also a renowned bassoon teacher – at Juilliard, Yale, the Manhattan Schools of Music, the New England Conservatory, and the University of Southern California. The family’s life was rich with music, culture and travel.

Creative and adventuresome, Lucy Maxym (pictured right) further expanded her interests in the late 1950s when she and her sister founded Siamese Imports, sourcing items from Thailand, where their brother lived. Their import and wholesale business added a new destination when Lucy happened to see a Russian box on the coffee table of a friend. Interested and interesting, she became fascinated with this art form, launching a passion, curiosity and desire to know more that lasted for the rest of her life. After her sister passed away, Lucy and her business began to focus more on Russian lacquer and art, Kashmir lacquer, and fine crafts from all over the world.

Although such travels were uncommon at the time (for a man, let alone woman!), Lucy was a pioneering entrepreneur and intrepid traveler – to the U.S.S.R., Kashmir, Burma, Vietnam and other exotic destinations. On her frequent journeys to the USSR, she was accompanied always and everywhere by a Russian escort supplied by the government. Starting in Moscow, they would travel to small villages known for these unique lacquer crafts – primarily Fedoskino, Palekh, Kholui, and Mstera – each with a distinctive style. On these trips, she would search out the talented artists who painted in miniature, and bring their wares back to the U.S. Over the years, she often collaborated with the artists, suggesting ideas, themes, new formats like porcelain plates, and new materials such as mother-of-pearl.

Although in this era of the Cold War, such business trips were formal, structured and restrictive, Lucy nevertheless made strong personal connections with the artists. When she arrived, she was an honored guest, greeted with parties, and the entire town would turn out to welcome her. Not surprisingly, these contacts, relationships and friendships built over decades were very meaningful to her.

According to the Sitka Sentinel in June 1985 regarding her then-upcoming exhibit in Sitka, Alaska, Lucy Maxym was “the only American authorized by the Soviet government to purchase the boxes from Russian artists for resale in the U.S.” As she exposed these hand-crafted Russian artworks at trade shows and elsewhere, buyers were very curious what the beautiful boxes were all about. Because she was constantly explaining the Russian stories that were the subjects of the miniature paintings, she decided to write a book – so in 1981, Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales was born. Five years later, Volume Two shared new stories of Russian myths and life. This proved to be a wise move: as the delicate paintings made more sense to buyers, both the understanding and sales of Russian lacquer boxes increased.

In addition to the lacquer boxes, Lucy also became interested in icons and was one of the first persons allowed to take icons out of Russia. Long held and worshipped in religious homes or churches where soot or grime would accumulate over time, the icons would be removed, then carefully restored to their original effulgence for sale to avid collectors. In this way, Lucy acquired some superb icons and so did her clients. This interest led her to a book on icons that she commissioned and edited.

Lucy was on the forefront of doing business in Russia, both as a small business person and as a woman. To this end, when conducting business with companies or banks, for example, she often would sign her name as “L. Maxym” to avoid disclosing her gender. Nevertheless, as a business woman in a man’s world over 50 years ago, she was undaunted by challenges. When an idea took hold, she was focused, persistent and unstoppable (“fearless,” said her daughter Eda). As her business grew, so did her reputation and recognition – resulting in her being honored as the first woman member of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Trade and Economic Council, according to her daughter.

Although the lacquer boxes were originally sold in kiosks to tourists in Russia, Lucy was instrumental in elevating the lacquer boxes to an art form. This was not only a benefit to those in America who enjoyed them, it had a major impact on the lives of the artists’ themselves: they were able to make a living from their artworks and to buy homes for their families. Her efforts made a difference is many people’s lives and even helped revitalize the towns they lived in.

After a long life full of adventure and discovery, Lucy Maxym passed away in 2017 at age 99. Her family members are the beneficiaries of Lucy’s vast personal collection amassed over decades, including original boxes photographed for her books or so special she kept them to enjoy herself. Now, however, they wish to share some of them with others who appreciate the beauty, artistry and provenance of these exquisite items that Lucy helped introduce to the world.

Here are some highlights of the upcoming sale on Sunday, April 15 (see details in the online catalog):

Lot 2: “Little Boy on a Chair,” Russian Painting by Nikolai Belsky (1868-1945). Nikolai Petrovich Bogdanov Belsky was active/lived in the Russian Federation, Latvia, and Germany. He is known for peasant children genre, portrait painting, and Impressionist landscape. Signed lower right. 6.30" x 4.02" (16.00cm x 10.20cm). Oil on panel. $4,0006,000.

Lot 33: Russian lacquer. "Scarlet Flower." Artist: L. Zuerkova. Size: 6 1/2 x 4 x 1 3/4 inches. Featured in Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales (v.2) by Lucy Maxym, page 13. Estimate: $400-600.

Lot 39: Russian lacquer. "The Mistress of Copper Mountain gave them a malachite box filled with precious jewels." Artist: Fedoskino school, 1978. Size: 4 x 2 x 1 1/4 inches. Featured in Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales by Lucy Maxym, page 63.

Lot 17: Russian lacquer. "The Humpbacked Pony." Artist: Palekh school / N. Lopatin, 1975. Size: 12 x 7 1/2 inches. Featured in “The Lucy Maxym Collection of Russian Lacquer” by Lucy Maxym, page 26, item #46. Estimate: $800-1,200.

Lot 64: An 18th-/19th-century Russian icon with elaborate hallmark gilt riza. "Our Lady of Vladimir." Size: 12 1/2 x 10 3/4 inches. Estimate: $1,000-2,000.

Lot 27: Russian lacquer. Persian casket. "The Seven Semeons." Artist: Palekh school. Size: 4 x 2 3/4 x 3 3/4 inches. Featured in Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales (v.2), page 35; and “The Lucy Maxym Collection of Russian Lacquer,” page 5, item #3 – both by Lucy Maxym. Estimate: $800-1,200.

Lot 71: Late 19th-/early 20th-century Russian antique gilt silver and cloisonné enamel Easter egg. Moscow, ca. 1899-1908. Struck with master's mark. Length: 2 1/4 inches. Total weight: 77 g. Estimate: $2,500-4,500. (Photo, lower right, page 2) Lot 67: A 17th- and 18th-century Russian icon. (Note: 18th-century painting over 17th-century original). "Our Lady of Vladimir.” With paperwork. Size: 12 1/4 x 10 inches. $700-900.

Lot 18: Russian lacquer. "Ruslan and Ludmilla." "Ludmilla in Chernomor's garden." Size: Diameter 8 inches. Featured in Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales, page 69; and “The Lucy Maxym Collection of Russian Lacquer,” page 18, item #29 – both by Lucy Maxym. Estimate: $800-1,200.

Lot 79: Russian silver items. Largest example: Height: 5 1/2 inches. Total weight: 363 g. Estimate: $150-250.

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