Winter season of Russian auctions in London

London’s leading auction houses, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams and MacDougall’s, are getting ready to welcome the traditional period of sales, dedicated to Russian art. For some, this will be an opportunity to add a new wonderful piece to their collection, while others will enjoy a chance to admire some previously unseen objects, that have been given to the auctions by private collectors. Afisha.London magazine outlines London’s main Russian art sales of the winter season.




Russian Art

The auction on November 29 will feature 186 lots, covering several centuries of the history of Russian art. In the section “Russian Painting”, the public is offered watercolors by Sergei Chekhonin (from £5 thousand to £12 thousand) and works by Filipp Maliavin, in which he masterly captured the joyous spirit of Russian peasant life (from £8 thousand to £150 thousand). In the same section, you will find paintings depicting the Asian expedition of Nicholas Roerich, which reflect the sublime beauty of mountain ranges, lakes and plains (from £40 thousand to £80 thousand). The key lots of the auction will be the painting Young woman with bouquet by Vladimir Lebedev (£250–300 thousand), a collection of works by Simkha Simkhovitch, as well as Aivazovsky’s painting Genoese towers in the Black Sea (£700–900 thousand) and a canvas by Korovin In the Garden (£500–700 thousand).


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The section “The Works of Art” will display works by Fabergé, including a rare model of a dormouse made of agate (£80–120 thousand), a collection of nine silver animal figurines (from £5 thousand to £35 thousand), a monumental bronze sculpture of Mephistopheles by Mark Antokolsky (£150–200 thousand), as well as a selection of rare silver ladles and early enamels of the 17th-18th centuries. On the eve of the auction, an exhibition will be held from 25 to 28 November, more details on the website.



A Selection of Fabergé Masterpieces from The Harry Woolf Collection

On November 29, the sale of an iconic, private collection of Fabergé masterpieces from the collection of Mr. Harry Woolf will take place. The selection comprises 86 pieces from Mr. Woolf’s extraordinary Fabergé collection which he personally composed over a period of nearly fifty years from the 1970’s until 2019. Amongst the exquisite pieces are outstanding examples of objet d’art from the House of Fabergé — from jewelled hardstone animals and decorative photograph frames, to pill boxes, scent bottles, silver pieces and jewellery, which exemplify the extraordinary craftsmanship and design of Fabergé and its master craftsmen of the time.


Photo: Christie’s


Exiles and Idealists: A Private Collection of Russian Literary Manuscripts

The auction from November 17 to December 1 will exhibit a private collection of 250 lots, telling the story of Russian literature over two centuries from 1800 almost to the present day, with a full alphabet of writers. Highlights include an unpublished letter by Gorky describing a meeting with Tolstoy (£10–15 thousand), a fragment from the original manuscript for Tolstoy’s Hadji Murat (£10–15 thousand) and What is Art? (£15–20 thousand), a remarkable series of letters by Turgenev, an inscribed photograph by Bulgakov, and a fragment from the manuscript for Bely’s great modernist novel, Petersburg (£5–8 thousand). At the heart of the sale are major collections relating to other giants of Russian literature: Ivan Bunin and the pre-eminent literary couple, Zinaida Gippius and Dmitri Merezhkovsky. Special attention should be paid to the autographs of poems by Anna Akhmatova and Velimir Khlebnikov, poems by Daniil Kharms, a letter from Vasily Zhukovsky and a mini autobiography by Alexei Konstantinovich Tolstoy. The auction will be preceded by an exhibition that will run from 25 to 30 November.





Russian Pictures

The auction is headed by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin’s masterpiece Still Life with Apples from 1912 (£2.5–3.5 million). Experts note that this is the first of the famous still lifes, in which elements of a spherical perspective are traced, which later became the artist’s hallmark. The still life was painted in the summer of 1912 when the artist and his wife were visiting the estate of General Pyotr Grekov in the Saratov province, where he created sketches, studies and the first version of the famous Bathing of a Red Horse.


Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. Still Life with Apples. 1912. Photo: Sotheby’s


“Salon” 19th century at the auction is presented by Odalisque by Konstantin Makovsky (£80–120 thousand) and Friends by Alexei Harlamoff (£60–80 thousand), the classical school of Russian landscape painting — Soir d’hiver, Engadine by Ivan Choultsé (£60–80 thousand). The auction will also feature works by other famous Russian painters of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: French Seaside Town in Summer by Konstantin Korovin (£150–220 thousand), Chamber in Sadko’s Palace by Nicholas Roerich (£40–60 thousand), Still Life with Sunflowers by Natalia Goncharova (£180–250 thousand), as well as works by Yuri Annenkov and Sergei Sudeikin. For details on the auction, which will take place on November 30, visit the website.



Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons

This sale provides an opportunity to purchase works of the greatest masters of Russian applied art — from Fabergé and Imperial Porcelain Factory masterpieces to the revolutionary designs of the Soviet Porcelain Factory. The sale also features skillful enamels, silver, bronzes and icons by the most important Russian artists. Before the auction on November 30, there will be an exhibition from November 25 to 29, details here.





Soviet Political & Propaganda posters

There is an art to propaganda — and during the Soviet period, that art came in the form of posters. Pioneering avant-garde artists created bold and experiential designs, which were works of art in their own right, as well as sophisticated propaganda material. These posters pushed the boundaries of graphic design using photomontage, innovative typography and modernist caricature, to reinforce political messages in a way which could not fail to attract attention. Now a selection of posters from the golden era of propaganda art come to Bonhams sale from the Sergo Grigorian’s сollection, which runs online from 19 to 30 November: Long live the USSR — the prototype of unity for the workers of every nationality in the world! and Glory to the great national poet Pushkin! by Klutsis (£8–12 thousand and £7–12 thousand), Separatist — Kulak Puppet (Petrushka) by Cheremnykh (£5–7 thousand), The revolutionary war against capital, fascist terror, famine and war is growing! by Deni (£4–6 thousand), Comrades-Miners! by Kulagina (£4–6 thousand), Smoke cigarettes. Tabakrest Ukraine. Top quality! By Martynov (£3–4 thousand). You can find out more about other lots on the website.


Gustav Klutsis. Long live the USSR — the prototype of unity for the workers of every nationality in the world! Photo: Bonhams


The Russian Sale

The top lot of the auction on December 1 — Portrait of a Colonel (1911) by Valentin Serov. The works of the great Russian realist master are rarely exhibited at public auctions, so each time their appearance becomes an event both for the art market and for the general public. The painting depicts an officer of the tsarist army, possibly decorated after the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). This late masterpiece by one of the finest Russian portrait painters of his generation demonstrates his unique ability to capture the psychology of a sitter in his work.

Other main lots of the upcoming auction include Boris Kustodiev’s Interior (£70–90 thousand), Nikolai Roerich’s ‘Ancient church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin’ at city of Vladimir (£60–80 thousand), Petr Konchalovsky’s A street in Ryazan (£80–100 thousand), Main Entrance, Troitsky Monastery by Konstantin Yuon (£15–20 thousand), Red coat (Tosca in red) and Song by Ivan Olinsky (£15–20 thousand and £15–18 thousand), Flight by Oleg Vasiliev (£30–50 thousand). Learn more about the auction here.





Leaders in Russian Art

In addition to beautiful paintings and objects of applied art, the MacDougallʼs auction house presents an interesting exhibit — Letter from Catherine the Great on Vaccination Against Smallpox (£800 thousand–1.2 million). The text of the letter addressed to Count Piotr Aleksandrovich Rumiantsev says how to organize vaccination against smallpox at the state level. The first known document on the first vaccination campaign in Russia will be one of the key lots together with the portrait of the Empress Catherine the Great by Dmitry Levitsky at the auction on December 1. Read more about other lots of the auction on the website.



Cover photo: Ivan Aivazovsky. Ship at Sea/Sotheby’s



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