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Masterpieces by one of Russia's highest selling female artists, believed destroyed, offered by Bonhams
The two nude, allegorical figures are entitled ‘Jurisprudence’ (shown above) and ‘Flora’ and both paintings are estimated to sell for £700,000 – 900,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Two paintings by the Russian artist Zinaida Evgenievna Serebriakova, once considered destroyed in WWII, will be offered by Bonhams in the Russian Sale, taking place on the 30th May in London.

The two nude, allegorical figures are entitled ‘Jurisprudence’ and ‘Flora’ and both paintings are estimated to sell for £700,000 – 900,000. Serebriakova was commissioned by the Belgian nobleman and philanthropist Baron de Brouwer to paint a series of murals in his villa in Belgium, on the French border.

Serebriakova was commissioned to show Baron de Brouwer's virtues through art and his taste for classical art lent itself to the artist’s talent for painting the nude. At the time, it was rare for Russian artists to paint nudes, particularly for female artists. The four nudes Serebriakova painted had allegorical attributes that corresponded to the interests and talents of her patron: 'Jurisprudence', to represent his career as a lawyer; 'Flora', to illustrate his love of flowers, horticulture and plantations; 'Light', to acknowledge Baron de Brouwer's power in business, and 'Art', to represent his patronage of the arts.

Serebriakova sent photographs of the paintings to her brother, fellow artist Evgeniy Lansere, who responded to them enthusiastically: “I love them..You have exactly that which others around you do not – an understanding of composition. The panels are excellent in the simplicity of their execution, completeness of shape, and so monumental and decorative. You completely understand the form of objects. Particularly difficult, I think, is the panel Jurisprudence... It is especially elegant and richly executed. In everything is simplicity and parsimony, so to speak, of decoration and attributes. I envy you your ease, your flexibility, and how broad and accomplished is your representation of the body.”

Unfortunately Baron de Brouwer and his wife both died during the Second World War, after the panels were finished, and it was thought that his house had also been destroyed. The house however remained standing and changed ownership a number of times. The murals also remained untouched for over 70 years, although the owners thought they had been executed by an unknown Flemmish artist.

Sophie Hamilton, Head of the Russian Art Department comments, “We are honoured to be able to offer two rare and unusual works by the eminent artist Serebriakova. The fact that the paintings lay undiscovered for so many years and have only been seen once in public before, at The State Russian Museum in St Petersburg, has meant we have already received much interest from collectors and scholars of Serebriakova.”

The two paintings will be exhibited on the 13th-17th May at the Triumph Gallery, 3/8, Ilyinka street, building 5, Moscow 109012.

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