PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, UNITED STATES
Aivazovsky journeyed to America to represent Russian artists at the World's Columbian Exposition (World's Fair) in Chicago in 1893, where an astounding twenty of his pictures were sent for exhibition. He had begun a series of colossal canvases depicting the life of Columbus many years earlier, and he continued to paint variations on that theme even while he was in New York. Aivazovsky considered the fact that the four hundred year anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America was at hand, and he may well have wished to send these paintings to Chicago because he knew they would resonate with American viewers.
As M.S. Sargsian noted in his article "Ayvasovski in America", the archives of the federal gallery in Theodosia, named after Aivazovsky, has preserved a handwritten list by the artist, dated July 10, 1892, which lists the paintings that Aivazovsky intended to send to the Chicago exposition. Among them, five paintings devoted to the Columbus theme were included, and it appears that the present lot was listed as number 4, Columbus on the Spanish Port of Paula, bidding farewell prior to his departure, and it was originally three by five arshins long (approximately 2 by 3.5 meters).
Prior to his departure, Aivazovsky expressed his desire to revisit the Atlantic Ocean to a reporter for Russkii Vestnik, stating, "My main purpose for this journey is to see the ocean once more and to renew my impressions of the journey taken in the 1840s. I am fond of those impressions, of those sceneries with limitless water. One looks at the often changing views, feels a calmness and a strong desire to capture everything...everything in order to reproduce them on canvas" (as quoted in Shahen Khachaturian, Aivazovsky in America, p. 18). Aivazovsky and his wife traveled extensively throughout America from 1892-93, though weariness and business affairs in St. Petersburg precluded the couple from actually visiting the World's Fair. In the present lot, Aivazovsky depicts Columbus' early morning departure from the port of Palos, Spain, on August 2, 1492. His palette captures the early morning light with stunning effect, softly and slowly illuminating the composition.
Columbus Sailing from Palos comes to auction directly from the descendents of Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973), heir to the Post cereal fortune and one of America's first internationally recognized businesswomen. She lived in the Soviet Union from 1937-38 with her third husband, Ambassador Joseph E. Davies (as documented in the biographical film Mission to Moscow), and it was during this stay that she fell in love with Russian art; she acquired many icons, textiles and various other works of art directly from the Soviet government. Merriweather Post continued to add to her opulent Russian collection throughout her lifetime, and today her Washington D.C. estate, Hillwood, operates as a museum of Russian and French art.
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