Ivan Kliun's 'Spherical Suprematism' and Other Masterworks of Russian Art

Ivan Kliun's 'Spherical Suprematism' and Other Masterworks of Russian Art

Sotheby's upcoming Russian Pictures and Russian Works of Art sales bring together an important selection of Russian paintings and creations by renowned Russian jewelers and craftsmen.
Sotheby's upcoming Russian Pictures and Russian Works of Art sales bring together an important selection of Russian paintings and creations by renowned Russian jewelers and craftsmen.

T he November Russian Pictures sale will be led by Ivan Kliun’s masterpiece Spherical Suprematism, one of exceptionally few oils by the Russian avant-garde artist to remain in private hands. The Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons sale features a magnificent jeweled rock crystal ‘snowflake’ pendant, alongside creations of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, Feodor Rückert and other celebrated suppliers to the Imperial Family.

A Fabergé jeweled rock crystal ‘snowflake’ pendant. Estimate £40,000–60,000

Related to Fabergé’s Imperial Winter Easter egg of 1913, this rare pendant would have been significant in Fabergé’s famous series of frost designs, intended for an important recipient. Designed by Alma Pihl and executed by Albert Holmström, each of Fabergé’s famous ‘snowflake’ designs was to be completely unique, like the ice crystals that inspired them. These rare designs were originally intended as souvenirs from Russia for the wealthy wives of the oil tycoon Emmanuel Nobel’s international clientele and are some of the most imaginative pieces ever produced by the famous jewelery firm. Held in private hands for decades, this example was originally in the important Fabergé collection of Lansdell K. Christie and was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1962.

A silver-gilt, cloisonné and pictorial enamel casket Feodor Rückert, Moscow, 1908-1917, Estimate £100,000–150,000

Famed for his exceptional enamel work and long-standing collaboration with Fabergé, Feodor Rückert was a master of the Neo-Russian style. Held in a private collection for over fifty years and depicting an iconic view of the white Kremlin, this rare work relates most closely to exceptional examples in The Royal Collection and Fabergé Museum, St Petersburg.

Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons, 26 November, London

Konstantin Yuon, The Ancient Town of Uglich, 1913. Estimate £600,000–800,000

Known only from a black and white photograph held in the artist's archives, which was published only once in the 1950s, the appearance at auction of The Ancient Town of Uglich is a major rediscovery. Painted in the last summer before the outbreak of the Great War when Yuon was at the height of his creative powers, it has remained unseen in Italian private collections for over a hundred years.

This work was the result of a trip to Uglich on the River Volga in 1913, which proved to be particularly fruitful. At the 11th Union of Russian Artists’ exhibition in Moscow and St Petersburg in 1913-14, Yuon showed no fewer than six works painted in Uglich, including this painting. Shortly after it was painted, the work was acquired by the wealthy merchant Alexander Kasyanov (1851-1925), who is perhaps best remembered for his outstanding portrait painted by Valentin Serov.

Ivan Kliun, Spherical Suprematism, Estimate £2,500,000–3,500,000

Ivan Kliun was a leading light of the Russian avant-garde, friend of Malevich and pioneer of non-objective art. This painting, is the most important work by the artist to ever have appeared at auction. Of exceptional provenance, this painting belonged to the fabled collector of the Russian avant-garde, George Costakis. It was largely through Costakis’s efforts that Kliun and many other artists of this seismic period in art history were not consigned to obscurity.

Costakis, who although born in the Soviet Union remained a Greek national, began to collect works by the all-but-forgotten artists of the avant-garde in the 1950s. Kliun was one of the artists he admired most, he considered him to be one of the greatest experimenters of his generation and in the 1960s he managed to acquire a large number of his works from the artist’s daughter Serafima. A number of works, including this painting are visible on the wall of the collector’s Moscow apartment in a photograph taken in 1973. Shortly afterwards Costakis was granted permission to leave the USSR in return for the donation of the bulk of his collection to the State Tretyakov Gallery. Spherical Suprematism is one of the few works he took with him when he emigrated, and bears the USSR export stamp on the reverse.

Russian Art

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