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Sotheby's Announces Sales of Russian Paintings, Icons, Fabergé and Works of Art
On the Eve of the Celebration, Santa Maria della Salute, Venice by self-proclaimed ‘sailor-artist’ Alexei Bogoliubov. Estimate: £400,000-600,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- In the wake of the healthy sum of £22.3 million achieved for Sotheby’s Sales of Russian Art this Summer, the forthcoming London auctions in this category will feature a broad selection of highly desirable 19th and 20th century Russian paintings, works of art, Fabergé and icons, which are set to generate great excitement among the collecting community. Russian Paintings Part I and Russian Paintings Part II will take place on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 and Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons will follow the next day on Wednesday, December 1, 2010. Combined, the three auctions are estimated to realise in excess of £12.2/$19.4 million.

Commenting on the forthcoming series, Jo Vickery, Senior Director and Head of the Russian Art Department, Sotheby’s London, said: “With our London sales still to take place, Sotheby’s sales of Russian Art have already generated this year the strong sum of $59.3 million, demonstrating that the market in this field is stable and that our clients are transacting with confidence. We are very pleased with the auctions we have assembled for the coming season, which will be highlighted by some outstanding and sought-after paintings and works of art.”

Russian Paintings – November 30, 2010:
Highlighting the series will be Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev’s oil on canvas The Kuli-Kuta Dance, Niamey, 1926. Coming to auction from an important private American collection, it is was painted on the return of The Croisière Noire, the pioneering Citroën expedition from Algeria to Madagascar which took place from October 1924- August 1925. As official artist to the expedition, and in contrast to other Africanist painters, Yakovlev shed light on as yet unexplored regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. The present work depicts the Kuli-Kuta dance, a parody of the ancient human sacrifices practiced in the kingdom of Dahomey. The priestess Kadi rhythmically sharpens her knives as she prepares to sacrifice the most beautiful of all the young girls in honour of Sango, the god of thunder and lightning. In his depiction of this erotic and belligerent dance, Yakovlev underscores the power of the priestess in pursuit of the young, sultry virgin, who undresses to offer herself. The painting is offered with an estimate of £800,000- £1 million.

On the Eve of the Celebration, Santa Maria della Salute, Venice by self-proclaimed ‘sailor-artist’ Alexei Bogoliubov was originally a gift from Queen Mary of England to Nora, Lady Wigram, in the 1930s and has remained in the same family ever since. Bogoliubov painted the current work in Denmark, whilst in the company of his great friend, Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich. A report of the Imperial Academy of Arts from 1867-68, alleges that ‘the painting belongs to the Danish Queen and is in her majesty’s palace at Amalienbourg’. Bogoliubov had first-hand experience of the festival he depicted, having travelled to Venice on more than one occasion, and such was the impression made on him by the city’s splendours that he ‘painted dozens of vistas at several different times of year’. Numerous paintings on a similar theme of varying sizes are held in Russian museum collections, however, this present lot is the only dated work and it can be considered the artist’s most successful. The painting presents Bogoliubov not only as a master of composition but also as a remarkable colourist. The work is estimated £400,000-600,000.

Oil on canvas The Land by Nikolai Nikanorovich Dubovskoy (1859-1918), which comes from the property of a Foundation in Switzerland, is estimated £80,000-120,000. Dubovskoy was taught at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts by Mikhail Klodt, one of the first artists who consciously set off in search of the essential characteristics of the Russian countryside. Flooded with light and imbued with an extraordinary sense of tranquillity, The Land is an exceptional example of Dubovskoy's contribution to this discourse and an important precursor to his monumental canvas, Motherland. The Land showcases many of his hallmark techniques: the barbed impasto for example, which gives the paint surface its rough texture, and the cool palette, predominantly light lilac combined with flashes of green. The blend of both strains that confronts the viewer on such a magnificent scale in The Land makes this the most impressive of his landscapes ever to be offered for public sale in recent times.

Portrait of Usae Mon by Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev (1887-1938) is a further highlight. Yakovlev's travels in the Far East in 1918-1919 provided him with a rich source of new impressions and liberated him from the dark shadow of the Russian revolution which broke out while he was in China. He would never return to Russia, basing himself in Paris for the rest of his life. The Japanese actor Usaemon is also the subject of the work. Yakovlev was an amateur scholar of the Kabuki theatre, a highly stylized performing art that dates from early seventeenth century and employs flamboyant costumes, elaborate make-up and exaggerated body movements to create a sense of the spectacular. This vivid portrait of Usaemon captures the exuberance of this ancient theatrical tradition and is a fantastic example of Yakovlev's passion for the Orient. It is estimated at £80,000- 120,000.

Autumn Landscape by Isaak Izrailevich Brodsky, signed in Cyrillic and dated 1907, comes from a Private Collection in Germany and has not been on the market since it was acquired by the grandmother of the present owners in the 1930s. The shimmering landscapes that Isaak Brodsky began to paint in 1907 mark an extraordinary departure from his early work, and were unlike anything the critics had seen before. Lyrical, slightly melancholy, and a mass of clearly defined mosaic-like fragments, they were immediately marked out for special praise by the Academy Committee and exhibited several times over the following year to great critical acclaim. The sharp, confident contrasts of Autumn Landscape are hallmarks of his best works over the next decade. It was not just his handling of paint that was distinctive; the composition of the present work for example – the truncated close-up view of the trees, and the dacha half-glimpsed through a lacy web of branches, feels very modern. The work carries an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

The Assyrian is one of the earliest versions of a composition glazed and fired by Mikhail Vrubel in the ceramics workshop of Abramtsevo. From the outset, Vrubel was the de facto master of the ceramics workshop, the complex play of surfaces, volume and colour of majolica presented him with a rich source of decorative possibilities. Versions of The Assyrian are held in a number of museum collections, including The State Tretyakov Gallery, The State Museum of Ceramics and the 18th century Kuskovo Estate, and the Krasnodar Art Museum. Although the colour of the glaze, shape and size of each model varies slightly, the sculptures clearly form a single group in terms of conception and composition. It is an extraordinarily powerful and expressive work – the intensity of the eyes lend the figure an aura of terrible grandeur and simultaneous suffering. The traditional oxidised firing and casting techniques used to make the present work are characteristic of the very earliest works Vrubel made at Abramtsevo and it can be dated to 1890-1891. The work was given by the artist to Elena Luksch Makovskaya and has never before appeared on the market, it will be offered with an estimate of £30,000-50,000.

The short strokes of pure pigment in Igor Emmanuilovich Grabar’s (1871-1960) oil on canvas Delphiniums create the intense sense of optical vibration for which Grabar was famous. The juxtaposition of complementary yellows and purples in the foreground is a characteristic feature of some of his most famous canvases, in particular his early snowscapes, and reflects his brilliant assimilation of Seurat and Signac's divisionist techniques. This sophisticated inversion of planes sets the present work apart from Grabar's treatment of this subject in 1908 and the conservative composition of In the Garden, a Bed of Delphiniums. With its cascading spectrum of hues, Delphiniums reflects Grabar's deep appreciation of nature's richness on a magnificent scale. It is estimated at £150,000-200,000.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

Sotheby's | Jo Vickery | Russian Paintings | Fabergé |

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