On 5 June, Sothebys
will bring to the market works by celebrated Russian artists and craftsmen from Malevich to Fabergé in the Russian Pictures and Russian Works of Art, Fabergé & Icons Sales taking place in London. With consignments drawn from prestigious collections from around the world, the sales will offer a unique opportunity to purchase works by some of the most pre-eminent creators of Russian art.
KAZIMIR SEVERINOVICH MALEVICH The Secret of Temptation with Portrait of Ivan Kliun on the verso, 1908 (Lot 64) Watercolour, gouache and pencil on card Estimate: £250,000 350,000
A rare figurative work on paper this watercolour is one of only a dozen or so original works by Malevich to have appeared at auction in the past decade. Malevich is best-known for his ground-breaking abstract Suprematist works. The Secret of Temptation (1908) dates from the artists short Symbolist period at a time when the artist was working on a series of religious-themed works. This work however, is far from celestial. In this bright sunny picture we find an expression of his elevated feelings on sex and the sacred nature of man, speaking volumes about the attitude of the young 29-year-old artist. On the reverse of the present work is a pencil portrait by Malevich of Ivan Kliun (1873-1943), an artist with whom he formed a lifelong friendship just at this period when both were turning to Symbolist subjects and were executing works in a similar, ornate style.
PAVEL TCHELITCHEW Excelsior, 1934 (Lot 74) Oil on canvas £250,000-350,000 From the collection of Seymour Stein
In 1934 Tchelitchew was invited by the English Surrealist patron Edward James to spend the summer at West Dean, his estate in Sussex. The time Tchelitchew spent at West Dean marked a pivotal moment in his artistic development and was the most fruitful of his English period.
Excelsior is a reworking of a study from the year before a portrait in triplicate of Tchelitchews partner Charles Henri Ford. In the present painting, the first and most likely the second figure are modelled on Ford, while the third, swarthier one is thought to represent American poet Parker Tyler. Fords boyish beauty captivated Tchelitchew and triggered a change of direction in his art. Apart from the commissioned society portraits, in the years before their meeting most of the artists figures had been faceless, as in the sand constellation paintings and the dancers of Ode. That the work is in triplicate (discounting the fourth, obscured figure) is significant because it relates to Tchelitchews work in triple perspective. There are three distinct vanishing points in one pictoral space as each of the three heads is viewed head-on, from above and from below self-designated as Body, Soul and Spirit.
PAVEL TCHELITCHEW The Rose Necklace, 1931 (Lot 77) Oil on board Estimate: £60,000-80,000 From the collection of Seymour Stein
The Rose Necklace is a portrait of Charles Levinson, known as Le Vincent, who was a handsome ex-soldier with a superb necklace of tattooed flowers (L.Kirstein, Tchelitchew, Santa Fe, 1994, p.45). With his nonchalant beauty and easy physicality he inspired Tchelitchew to produce a full series of tattooed circus figures. This portrait provides an earthy, sexual counterpoint to Picassos Garçon à la Pipe (1904) which inspired Tchelitchews portraits of Ford and others surrounded by flowers, only here the garland of roses is transposed to the sitters chest.
KONSTANTIN ALEXEEVICH KOROVIN House In Gurzuf With A Candlelit Interior, 1913 (Lot 39) Oil on paper laid on canvas Estimate: £150,000-200,000
In the same family collection for over a century, House in Gurzuf with a Candlelit Interior is offered at auction for the very first time. Painted in Korovins beloved Gurzuf which inspired so many of his best paintings, this work is from the artists most coveted period.
Korovin was interested in the effects of artificial light and evening views form an important part of his oeuvre. His night views of Paris Grand Boulevards are well known, but even during his many stays in Crimea, which Korovin as well as other Russian artists loved for its southern light, he turned to this genre.
VLADIMIR FEDOROVICH STOZHAROV Bolshaya Pyssa, 1964 (Lot 138) Oil on card laid on board Estimate: £150,000-200,000
The landscapes, vernacular architecture and the people of rural Russia were major themes in Stozharovs work. The Russian north in particular was very close to the artist, and he spent many summers in the Arkhangelsk Region as well as the Komi Republic. Stozharov was particularly drawn to the large village of Bolshaya Pyssa, located on the banks of the Mezen river to the east of Arkhangelsk. Its tightly-packed wooden houses appear in many of his canvases, and in many ways the juxtaposition of these unforgiving landscapes with meagre signs of human habitation such as smoking chimneys or washing lines came to embody Stozharovs vision of the north. A highly respected and successful artist during his lifetime, many of Stozharovs best works are in public collections, with such large-scale finished works rarely appearing on the market.
VERA MIKHAILOVNA ERMOLAEVA Suprematist Design For A Façade, 1920 (Lot 65) Gouache and pencil on paper Estimate: £30,000-50,000
Ermolaeva executed Suprematist Design for a Façade in the spring of 1920 as part of a comprehensive municipal programme to decorate the streets of Vitebsk for the 1st of May celebrations. A year earlier Ermolaeva had been sent to Vitebsk by the Peoples Commissariat of Education to head up the painting studio at the Peoples School of Art where she proved a dependable assistant to Marc Chagall.
The arrival of Kazimir Malevich in Vitebsk in November 1919 had a tremendous impact on Ermolaeva. Finding herself in the company of the founding father of the non-objective movement it was not long before she followed the lead of the great Russian avant-garde artist and became an ardent adherent of Suprematism. The present work is by far the most important of Ermolaevas Suprematist pieces to have survived. A smaller version of the work is at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
PETR IOSIFOVICH SMUKROVICH Toilette, 1913 Oil on canvas Estimate: £200,000-300,000
The most important recorded work by Petr Smukrovich, this sumptuous large-scale painting drew the attention of critics at the 1913 graduation show of the Imperial Academy of Arts with the Apollon reviewer singling it out as the most accomplished work that year and praising its technical virtuosity.
While Smukrovichs noble family roots were to become problematic for his advancement as an artist under Bolshevik rule, Toilette was painted at a time when the artist was free to hark back to the era evoked by Konstantin Makovskys genre scenes, delighting in rich materials, exploring the time-honoured servant mistress motif and creating a Russified version of Édouard Manets Olympia (1863).
VASILY IVANOVICH SHUKHAEV Russian Landscape, 1922 (Lot 60) Oil on canvas laid on board Estimate: £250,000-350,000
Despite the title given by the artist, the present work is closely related to Shukhaevs series of Finnish landscapes and was completed in Paris in 1922. Shukhaev had arrived in France early the previous year. Although Shukhaevs Finnish period was short, the ten months he spent there in 1920 were very productive and expanded his horizons. The artist produced dozens of works while in Finland, including views of the village of Mustamyaki, where he stayed on the estate of Pauline Linde, the mother of the actress Anna Geinz, who had been a friend of Shukhaev and Yakovlev in St Petersburg.
ALEXANDER EVGENIEVICH YAKOVLEV Harlequin, 1922 (Lot 61) Sanguine and charcoal on paper laid on canvas Estimate: £150,000-200,000
Theatre was a major theme in Alexander Yakovlevs work throughout his career. Arriving in Paris in 1919 after an extended stay in East Asia, he brought with him countless drawings and paintings inspired by Japanese Kabuki and Chinese theatre. He published a volume on Chinese theatre in 1922, the same year he executed the present work. European theatrical traditions, particularly the Commedia dellarte, also left their mark on Yakovlevs work. A famous double self-portrait from 1914, created with the artists close friend Shukhaev and depicting themselves as Pierrot and Harlequin is now at the State Russian State Museum in St Petersburg.
RUSSIAN WORKS OF ART, FABERGÉ & ICONS SALE
A rare and important Imperial Silver-Gilt and Enamel Triptych Icon of the Feodorovskaya Mother of God, Savelev Brothers, Kostroma, 1894 (Lot 458) Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000
This spectacular presentation icon was gifted to the last Emperor, Nicholas II, on the occasion of his wedding to Alix of Hesse in 1894. Wedding gifts were sent to the royal couple from throughout the Empire and abroad, many from municipal governments.
This triptych icon was presented by the city of Kostroma a city in Western Russia where Michael I of Russia became the first Russian Tsar of the House of Romanov, and therefore commonly considered the birthplace of the Romanov dynasty. When Michael I had left for Moscow to be crowned, he had taken with him a copy of the Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, a gift from his mother. The icon thus became the patron icon of the family with the Kostroma officials choosing it as the subject of their extraordinary gift.
A pair of Fabergé jewelled gold, enamel and hardstone cufflinks, workmaster Henrik Wigström, St Petersburg, 1908-1917 (Lot 329) Estimate: £12,000 18,000
During the years 1908-1917, four of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna's nephews and three of her grandnephews were made Knights of the Danish Order of the Elephant. Also knighted was her late husband's first cousin, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich (1909). It is suggested here that either the Dowager or her son, Emperor Nicholas II, may have commissioned these cufflinks from Fabergé as a gift to a newly knighted relative, or perhaps for Count Vladimir Frederiks, the Emperor's Imperial Household Minister, who was knighted in 1909.
A pair of monumental gilt-bronze mounted porcelain vases, Imperial Porcelain Factory, St Petersburg, 1825 (Lot 414) Estimate: £1,000,000 - 1,500,000
These vases are the earliest known pair of this monumental size produced by the Imperial Porcelain Factory. Dated 1825 in both paintings, their production almost certainly commenced during the reign of Emperor Alexander I, who died on 19 November (O.S.) of that year. As such early examples, they represent the beginning of what is considered the peak of porcelain production in Russia, the reign of Nicholas I, during which technical advances and the keen personal interest of the Emperor himself resulted in porcelain of the finest quality. Vases of this scale were usually intended for the use of the Emperor or Empress or another member of the Imperial family, or occasionally as gifts from the Emperor to foreign rulers.