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Lost Russian masterpiece by Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich for sale at Bonhams
Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947), Madonna Laboris, 1931. Tempera on canvas, 84 x 124cm (33 1/16 x 48 13/16in). Est: £800,000-1,200,000. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- Madonna Laboris by Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) will be sold in the Russian Sale at Bonhams New Bond Street on 5th June 2013 for an estimated £800,000 to £1.2m.

Madonna Laboris by Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) represents a major re-discovery of a masterpiece of great significance for Russian art and Roerich scholars. Always known to exist, the whereabouts of this major work remained a mystery until now.

Belonging to a series of works which followed with Madonna Oriflamma in 1932 and Madonna Protectoris in 1933, Madonna Laboris (1931), develops the theme of ‘Great Female Deities of the World’ which preoccupied Roerich throughout his career as he sought to develop iconography to represent ‘the Great Spirit of the Feminine Principle’ : unity in the world.

Smaller and later versions of the subject can be found in the Roerich Museum in New York (dated 1933) and the Latvian National Museum in Riga (dated 1936); it is believed that these later versions were painted by the artist as special commissions for collectors that had seen and admired the 1931 original.

Madonna Laboris depicts the story from an apocryphal gospel which captured Roerich’s artistic imagination. In the transcendental heights above earth is Heaven, at the gate of which stands the Apostle Peter. Peter was disturbed and said to the Lord God: ‘All day long I watch the gates of Paradise; I do not let anyone in, yet in the morning there are newcomers in Paradise.’ And the Lord said: ‘Let us make the rounds at night, Peter.’ So they went in the night and they saw the Holy Virgin lowering along the wall Her snow-white scarf, up which souls were climbing. Peter took this to heart and wanted to interfere, but the Lord whispered: “Shh... let be…” (Nicholas Roerich. To Womanhood. 1931).

Yelena Harbick, Director of Russian Art in New York, says ‘We are delighted to announce the re-discovery of this masterpiece by Nicholas Roerich in the American private collection. Not only the painting reflects Roerich’s belief in the redeeming and creative greatness of women and feminine element in the universe, but Madonna Laboris is a work of exceptional artistic merit. Large scale, balanced and harmonious composition, rich and saturated tones of turquoise, cerulean blues, sea-foam greens with black and fiery-red accents – create memorizing visual effect and long-lasting memories for any one who sees it. Only a small number of works of similar historic and artistic importance remain in private hands and their appearance at the auction is always a significant event. We consider Madonna Laboris one of the most important works by Nicholas Roerich to appear at the auction in the last years and anticipate that it will generate considerable interest among international collectors.”





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