Christie's announces highlights of the Important Russian Art Auction

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Christie's announces highlights of the Important Russian Art Auction
Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947), The Call of the Sun, 1919. Estimate: £1,500,000-£2,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.

LONDON.- Christie’s announced the upcoming Important Russian Art auction which will take place In London on the 25th of November, offering artworks by Nicolai Fechin, Nicholas Roerich, Ivan Shishkin, Natalia Goncharova and other notable Russian artists. The sale is led by Fechin’s masterpiece, The Manicure. Portrait of Mademoiselle Girmond, painted in 1917 and which to this day has remained in the collection of the artists family. Christie’s will offer the painting with an estimate of £2-3 million.

Paintings executed by Fechin during the years before his emigration abroad in 1923 were produced at the peak of his artistic activity, the culmination of which includes the portrait of Mademoiselle Girmond. Fechin depicts a femme fatale in luxurious apparel tending to her hands, fully embodying the aesthetics of La Belle Epoque. The sense of luxury portrayed in the work contrasts the dark realities of revolutionary Russia; the young lady is fully absorbed in maintaining her appearance, and the portrait highlights Fechin’s talent and skilful use of colour and texture. This will be the work’s first appearance at auction, providing collectors with the extremely rare opportunity to own a masterpiece from one of the most significant Russian painters of the 20th century.

The second top lot of the sale is Nicholas Roerich’s masterful The Call of the Sun, with an estimate of £1.5-2 million, painted in Karelia, where Roerich lived on the recommendation of his doctor before he moved to London, and eventually settling in the USA. The picture displays Roerich’s interest in archaeology and the Stone Age. Roerich’s oeuvre is represented elsewhere in the sale, with the canvas St Mercurius of Smolensk painted in 1918, offered at £200,000-£300,000, representing one of the artist’s most impressive canvases depicting Russian saints. For the past 50 years, the picture has remained in the collection of one family, and has not been exhibited in public for almost 100 years. The Virgin Mary armed St Mercurius with a divine sword, which helped him to defeat the leader of the Tatar army which was besieging Smolensk in 1239. Roerich painted two versions of the picture, the first being the aforementioned lot, and the second, less finished version which was painted later, in 1919, probably the result of a commission. Roerich’s depiction of the dangers that the Mongol invasion presented to the ancient Rus’ mirror the constant threat of war experienced by the artist himself during the beginning of the 20th century. Roerich created a series of artworks that are dedicated to the patron saints protecting Russia and the Christian faith during these periods of history.

In the course of his career which spanned several decades, the leading marinist Ivan Aivazovsky executed around 6,000 paintings, many of which depict stormy oceans and the destructive power of the elements. In his vista Sunset over Ischia, Aivazovsky returns to one of his favourite locations, the Gulf of Naples, with a sublime view over the island of Ischia (estimate £300,000-£500,000). The sale kicks off with another Aivazovsky picture, Pushkin looking out to Ayu-Dag, Crimea, with an estimate of £80,000-120,000.

Ivan Shishkin’s Sukhostoi was painted in 1897, a year before his famous work Mast tree grove (1898, The State Russian Museum), and is on offer at an estimate of £700,000 – 900,000. It is likely that the painting depicts the countryside of Preobrazhenskoe, 140 km south of St Petersburg, where the artist spent the summer of 1897 with his daughter Ksenia. One of the last monumental works by the Russian master of en plein air painting, Sukhostoi, was illustrated in the January edition of Zhivopisnoe obozrenie [Paintings review] in 1899 and it is highly probable that it was exhibited at the artist’s posthumous exhibitions in St Petersburg and Moscow.

Natalia Goncharova’s White peonies most likely participated in the artist’s first solo exhibition in Moscow in 1913, under the title White Dahlias (estimate £250,000-350,000). The 1913 exhibition included 800 artworks by the artist, from still life to religious paintings, portraits and landscapes, and was a turning point in the artist’s career. More than a century after this momentous exhibition, the artist’s legacy continues to beguile art lovers and aficionados the world over, with recent exhibitions at the Tate Modern and the Palazzo Strozzi, a testament to her enduring appeal. Other top lots in the pictures session include Jerusalem by Konstantin Gorbatov (1935, estimate £80,000-120,000), Battle of the Katzbach by Frantz Roubaud (1813, £80,000-120,000), Peonies by Aleksandr Gerasimov (estimate £150,000-200,000), 18 propaganda postcards with illustrations by Kazimir Malevich with verse by Vladimir Mayakovsky (estimate £30,000-50,000), Ruins of a watchtower near Izborsk by Dmitry Plavinsky (1973, estimate £20,000-£30,000) alongside a wide range of etchings by the artist.

The works of art session will include rare pieces by Carl Fabergé from an important European collection, works by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, and the State Porcelain Factory. The collection of rare Fabergé items from an important European collection (lots 207-224) include lots with an illustrious provenance; some were formerly in the renowned Kazan and Forbes collections, while others were acquired by European nobility and the Russian Imperial family. Also offered, a rare vase by the Imperial Porcelain Factory from the period of Nicholas I, and executed circa 1850, the vase is painted after Ernst-Gotthilf Bosse. It’s a rare example of a piece by the Imperial Porcelain Factory that incorporates three colours of gold and is presented with an estimate of £600,000-800,000.

Another important porcelain vase offered in the November auction is after a design by Rudolf Vilde and executed by the State Porcelain Factory in 1928. The vase illustrates the Arctic expedition to save the crew of the airship ‘Italia’, which crashed during its return flight from the North Pole, depicting an arctic landscape and Boris Chukhnovski’s three-motored plane which saved the lives of the survivors of the Malmgren group.

Further top lots include an important Fabergé silver-gilt bratina, decorated with cloisonné enamel, as well as a rare Fabergé table, applied with silver decorations and a nephrite top.

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