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An Avant-Garde masterpiece by Aristarkh Lentulov leads the Sale of Important Russian Art at Christie's
Apollinarii Vasnetsov (1856-1933), Village in the Ural mountains, signed in Cyrillic and dated ‘Apollinarii Vasnetsov 1907’ (lower left), oil on canvas, 56¼ x 82 in. (143 x 208 cm.). Estimate: £600,000-800,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.
LONDON.- Christie’s announced its sale of Important Russian Art, taking place on 25 November, which will feature 325 impressive works of art. The sale is led by important pictures ranging from monumental views of the Russian landscape to exquisite early 20th century works on paper by artists such as Zinaida Serebriakova, Alexandre Benois and Sergei Chekhonin. It is further highlighted by over 45 works by Fabergé, including important pieces from the Estate of His Royal Highness the Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester KG., KT., KP.; pieces of significant 18th century Russian silver, and a rare selection of porcelain, including exceptional military plaques.

Appearing on the open market for the first time in history, Aristarkh Lentulov’s vibrant and compelling 1916 canvas is one of the most important paintings by this Avant-Garde master ever to appear at auction. Exhibited with the Jack of Diamonds the year of its creation, Church in Alupka was formerly held in the eminent collection of Vladimir Semenov (estimate £1,800,000-2,200,000). Church in Alupka, which depicts the Church of the Holy Archangel Michael in the Crimea, is a strikingly modern interpretation of a traditional architectural form, reflecting Avant-Garde European painting while maintaining its distinctly Russian identity.

The November sale will also include Ilya Mashkov’s rare and important composition from 1911, The bathers (estimate: £600,000 - 800,000). Offered in the wake of the sale led by his pioneering 1910 Still life with fruit, which was sold at Christie’s on 3 June 2013 for £4.8 million and established a new world record for the artist, the appearance at auction of two major canvasses by this rare artist within such a short period is an extraordinary event in itself. Executed in the Neo-Primitive style that characterised and united the works included in the inaugural Jack of Diamonds exhibition, The bathers is a crucial example of the group’s bold canvasses that reference Russian folk-art and ancient stone sculptures.

Christie’s is also pleased to offer Apollinarii Vasnetsov’s impressive Village in the Ural mountains (estimate: £600,000-800,000), the most significant painting by the renowned landscape artist to appear at auction. Measuring 143 x 208 cm., this monumental landscape was exhibited at the 1914 Baltic Exhibition in Malmö and acquired directly from this exhibition by the grandfather of the present owner. As one of Russia's great landscape artists, nowhere is Vasnetsov’s understanding of and affection for the Motherland more evident than in his epic depictions of the Urals and Siberia, the terrain of which recall his native village Ryabovka. Discerning collectors will not want to miss the opportunity to acquire such a spectacular painting with excellent provenance.

Further highlights of the paintings section of the sale include eleven paintings from the collection of the Russian émigré Léon Garganoff, including two captivating seaside scenes by Konstantin Korovin (estimates: £120,000-180,000; Bathers on the beach) and an important early work by Abram Arkhipov To Vespers (£300,000-500,00). The auction also features Alexei Harlamoff’s exquisite Two girls arranging flowers (estimate: £400,000-600,000), pre and post-emigration works by the brilliant master of portraiture Nicolai Fechin: Little Shepherd Boy (estimate: £200,000-300,000) and Portrait of Marucia, a Russian singer (estimate: £200,000-300,000) and Natalia Goncharova’s Magnolias offered from the collection of Raymond Cogniat, the esteemed French critic and a great friend of the artist (estimate: £180,000-220,000).

Christie’s will offer a range of truly rare and exceptional Russian works of art from distinguished private collections, many of which have never appeared at auction before. With an emphasis on important and royal provenance, the sale includes an exceptional, whimsical and rare group of Fabergé from the estate of His Royal Highness the Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester K.G., K.T., K.P (lots 216-232). Carrying both Imperial and Royal provenance, this group embodies the close dynastic ties that characterised the twilight years of the glittering world of the European Ancien Régime. At the heart of this royal collection lie eight hardstone elephants, of particular note are two models of an elephant and castle, which directly relate to the Order of the Elephant, the highest order of chivalry in Denmark (estimate: £25,000-35,000 each). Rarely seen on the market, works of this quality and pedigree by Fabergé are only seen in related collections, such as that of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.

In addition to a strong selection of works with Royal provenance, the sale also features works with notable Imperial history. Under the reign of Nicholas II, the Imperial Russian court was particularly renowned for awarding lavish gifts to Russian and foreign dignitaries, such as this presentation cigarette case, which was awarded to Captain John Nicholas, M.V.O., R.H.A. (estimate: £20,000-30,000). Appointed Superintendent of the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace in 1901, Captain Nicholas was most likely presented this cigarette case on the occasion of a State visit by Emperor Nicholas II; this vibrantly enamelled piece is an exciting Imperial presentation piece that has been in the family’s collection ever since.

The sale’s emphasis on rare and exceptional quality works by Fabergé is further highlighted by the present hardstone study of hawthorn, that traces its provenance to both American and European private collections (estimate: £150,000-250,000). Fabergé’s flower and fruit studies, of which there are approximately only eighty known surviving examples, were inspired by the opulent flowers integral to court culture and favoured by the Imperial family. Rarely seen at auction, this hawthorn study presents an exciting opportunity to acquire one of Fabergé’s important works with corollaries in the Geddings Gray Foundation and Pratt Collection bequest.

The Auction of Important Russian Art will also include a rare bronze depicting Count Sergei Iulievich Witte (1849-1915), a highly influential Russian statesman, who served under Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II (estimate: £50,000-70,000). In 1892, Witte was appointed as Minister of Finance, an office in which he was responsible for numerous important accomplishments. The present bronze, cast in 1901, coincides with Sergei Witte's tenure as Minister of Finance. Casts of this model are exceedingly rare and, consequently, seldom appear on the market. Christie’s are pleased to offer such a remarkable and historic piece, which has descended directly through the Troubetzkoy family.

The sale also includes a selection of the most important works executed by the Imperial Porcelain Factory and other major private porcelain factories from the period of Empress Catherine II to the Soviet Era (lots 280-331, 333-334). Highlighting the group is a comprehensive and rare group of porcelain depicting Russian regiments and military scenes, including extraordinarily rare porcelain plaques (estimate: £40,000-50,000 each). Executed during the reign of Nicholas I and included in the seminal Exposition de Cèramiques Russes Anciennes in 1929, these plaques are Imperial works of the highest quality. Alongside military porcelain, the group includes rare figures and eggs, making it the most significant selection of Russian porcelain to be seen on the market in years.

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