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Bonhams Offers Rare Svetoslav Roerich Painting Modelled on His Father, the Legendary Nicholas Roerich
Svyatoslav Nikolaevich Roerich (Russian, 1904-1993), Double sided portrait of Nicholas Roerich. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A double-sided painting entitled ‘King Solomon’ by Svetoslav Roerich is one of the top lots in the Russian Sale taking place in New Bond Street on 1st December. Estimated to sell for £300,000 – 400,000, this work has never been exhibited or published before and has only previously been known to a small group of specialists.

One of only two existing works from the unfinished series of paintings depicting the most important religious figures and spiritual teachers of the past, this magnificent portrait was painted in 1923 in Paris where Roerich stopped on his way to India.

Roerich’s interpretation of King Solomon, who built the first Temple of Jerusalem, is instilled with complex symbolism and is depicted as a vehicle for mystical experience: his Solomon has tasted from the chalice of his fate and sacrificed himself for the creation of the Great Temple. This symbolic interpretation was most likely suggested by the Roerich’s father, the legendary Nicholas Roerich who wrote the essay ‘Strings of Earth’ about Solomon’s desire to build a unified Temple.

Consequently, Svetoslav Roerich decided to model the portrait of King Solomon on the likeness of his father, who was indeed considered a spiritual teacher and cultural leader at the time. As a result, this interesting portrait can be seen as the personification of Nicholas Roerich as the celebrated builder of the Temple, known for his great wisdom, wealth and power.

The reverse side of the painting reveals Roerich’s talent as an illustrator. The scene of the falcon hunt is one of a series of illustrations for the edition of European Fairy Tales commissioned in France in 1923, but the series was never completed.

A magnificent painting of the Himalayas by Nicholas Roerich, entitled ‘‘Himalayas, from Ting-kye Dzong’ is estimated to sell for £80,000 – 100,000. The painting was executed in 1928 in Darjeeling, India where Nicholas Roerich and his expedition party arrived after crossing Mongolia and Tibet. The painting is characteristic of Roerich’s ability to turn a mountain landscape into a symbol of life’s grandeur and beauty. Roerich only needed a few lines to create a scene of exceptional beauty and grandeur making it easy to see why he became known as the ‘master of mountains’.

A second work by Nicholas Roerich is also offered in the sale estimated at £15,000 – 20,000, a sketch depicting a colourful scene of trees in a landscape setting.

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