Lot 11
  • 11

Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
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  • Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky
  • The Rag Market in Moscow
  • signed in Cyrillic and dated 1880 Moskva l.l.
  • oil on canvas
  • 161 by 261cm., 63 1/2 by 102 3/4 in.


Acquired by the grandfather of the present owner in Copenhagen circa 1920
Thence by descent to the present owner


St Petersburg, Moscow, The Eighth Itinerant Exhibition, 1880. St Petersburg no.29, Moscow no.14
Moscow, All-Russian Industrial and Artistic Exhibition, 1882, no.272
Chicago, World Columbian Exhibition, 1893, no.73
St Petersburg, Exhibition of paintings, studies and drawings by active members of the Imperial Academy of the Arts and the Society of Itinerant Exhibitions, V.E.Makovsky and E.E.Volkov, 1902, no.180  


'The Itinerant Exhibition', Vsemirnaia illustratsiia, Vol.XXIII, 23 February 1880, no.581, p.182
'Mimokhodom: The Itinerant Exhibition', Molva, 9 March 1880, no.68
'The Eighth Itinerant Exhibition', Peterburgskaya gazeta, 9 March 1880, no.48
'A Walk Around Fine Art Exhibitions: The Eighth Itinerant Exhibition', Peterburgskii listok, 15 March 1880, no.51
A.Led and A.Z.Ledakov, 'Fine Art Exhibition: The Society of Itinerant Exhibitions', Sankt-Peterburgskie vedemosti, 16 March 1880, no.75
A.M.Dmitriev, 'The Eighth Itinerant Exhibition', Sovremennye izvestiia, 19 April 1880, no.108
O.Danivin, 'The Eighth Itinerant Exhibition', Russkaia gazeta, 30 April 1880, no.41
'Pis'mo iz Peterburga', Russkii vestnik, March 1880, vol.146, p.374
A.G.Kuznetsov, Photogravures of paintings by V.E.Makovsky, typesetting and lithographs by I.I.Kushnerev and Co, 1892, no.XVI
The Art Gallery Illustrated, 1893, p.269 (illustrated), 369 (listed)
H.Bancroft, The Book of the Fair, Chicago, San Francisco: The Bancroft Company, 1893, pp.63-64, 77 (listed), 983 no.73 listed as A Public Market in Moscow
N.N.Breshko-Breshkovskii, Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky i ego khudozhestvennaya deyatel'nost', St Petersburg, 1902
E.V.Zhuravleva, Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky, 1846-1920, Moscow, 1972, pp.40-44
I.Nenarokomova, Vladimir Makovsky, Belyi gorod, 2002, pp.21-23
State Tretyakov Gallery Catalogue: Painting of the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century, Vol.4, book 1 (A-M), Moscow: Red Square Publishers, 2001, p.390 listed as 'whereabouts unknown'


Structural Condition The large canvas is unlined and is providing a stable and secure structural support and lining should not be required for the foreseeable future. There is one small patch on the reverse of the canvas. Paint surface The paint surface has an even varnish layer and the few retouchings that are visible under ultraviolet light are not visible in natural light. The most significant of these retouchings are: 1) a triangular area in the upper left corner which measures approximately 10 x 14 cm, 2) a thin diagonal line running down from the upper horizontal framing edge which is approximately 7 cm in length, and 3) other retouchings along the upper horizontal framing edge. There is also an area of repair (which corresponds to the patch on the reverse) on the base of the dome in the upper right of the composition. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition and no further work is required.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

On the 6th of March 1880 the eighth exhibition of Society of Itinerant Exhibitions opened in St. Petersburg. The high expectations of the public and art critics were well rewarded by canvasses by Viktor Vasnetsov, Konstantin Savitsky, Ilya Repin, Nikolai Ge and Ivan Kramskoi. Amongst works by these acknowledged masters, one picture attracted particular attention: The Rag Market in Moscow by Vladimir Makovsky, an artist who had already achieved a considerable degree of fame and popularity amongst art-lovers. Critics immediately singled out this unconventional painting from the more than seventy works on display.


A few days before the exhibition opened the magazine Vsemirnaya illustratsia had observed that: 'A lot of large paintings will be exhibited at this year's Itinerant Exhibition, and it seems that the largest of all will be Vladimir Makovsky's 'The Rag Market in Moscow'....


'Makovsky's 'The Rag Market in Moscow' brings together such a variety of characters, of specifically Muscovite personalities, that you can literally lose yourself in them,' wrote the reviewer for Contemporary News, who invited readers to have a close look at this 'picture, full of movement and beauty, in which this talented artist yet again has shown why it is not without reason that he has been called the Dickens of Russian art. Truly, in the work of no other Russian artist have we seen such mild good humour, or such exquisite powers of observation – qualities which one finds throughout Makovsky's oeuvre.' (Contemporary News, 1880. 19.04. N108)


The predominant evaluation of the picture is succinctly expressed by one contemporary observer: 'Vladimir Makovsky is a true expert on Moscow life and has demonstrated his knowledge particularly well in 'The Rag Market'. All the different characters that make up 'the little people' of Moscow, whom the artist has been observing for years and storing up in his countless albums and folders, have come together here in one large picture.  The women stall-holders, the retired cavalrymen with their regalia, the tramps, and the petty thieves: they all come alive thanks to the creative force of Makovsky's brush...'(N.N. Breshko-Breskovskii, Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky and his Art, St. Petersburg 1902)


By 1880, the year this picture is dated, Vladimir Makovsky had matured into a vibrant, creative and original artist. He was born in Moscow: the city's atmosphere would eventually have a significant influence on the nature of his artistic interests.


Makovsky's favoured medium was genre painting. He continued traditions started by Pavel Fedotov and developed by Vasily Perov, whom Makovsky succeeded as the most famous and popular genre painter of the time. As an artist Makovsky was not greatly attracted by subject matter which had a clear social message or which criticised the status quo, although he did produce a few pictures of this sort, but was more interested in the domestic side of the everyday life of ordinary, undistinguished people. It was in 'petit genre' that Makovsky revealed the full extent of his talent. His anecdotal paintings are reminiscent of Chekhov's early stories: by depicting small private episodes, Makovsky managed to conjure up a vivid sense of the period, of a person's character, of their position in a certain class.


In The Rag Market in Moscow the artist has taken for his subject one of the most unique places in Moscow – the flea market between what was then the Ilyinsky Gates and Staraya ploschad'. In the second half of the nineteenth century the old city walls of Kitai-Gorod still stood in this area.


A contemporary of Makovsky gave a vivid description of this characterful locale in his essay 'The Lives of Moscow's Traders': 'This mob of forgotten people resembled an enormous ant's nest: the dense, shifting crowd contained representatives from every class. There were princes, counts, and nobles, upwardly-mobile commoners, escaped prisoners, retired soldiers, monks, and wandering holy-men... the chief ornament of this venerable gathering was the so-called 'tsar's kitchen'. This kitchen was located in the middle of the market: two dozen or so sturdy women traders would bring large pots wound in various rags... All day the lumpenproletariat would come here for their grub, as they could get a bowl of hot cabbage soup and a bit of black bread for two kopecks.' (A. Slonov, The Lives of Moscow Traders (Half a Century Ago) Moscow, 1914, p. 126-127)


Every figure in the picture – every face, gesture and movement – has been carefully thought through by Makovsky and is convincingly and vividly depicted. The rich application of paint and the lively movement of the brushstrokes convey beautifully the myriad colours of the characters' clothing, the dappled mosaic of the sunlit square and the expressive faces of the habitués of the Moscow flea market.


The idea for The Rag Market in Moscow  had started to form by the beginning of 1875. A.V. Prakhov, an art historian and publisher of the journal The Bee, suggested to Makovsky that he should contribute a sketch of the picture to his magazine. Replying to Prakhov, Makovsky wrote: 'As regards my painting 'The Rag-Fair', I will send over its size later, but I do not think that I will be able to place it in your magazine in the near future, as I have not yet been able to get down to it properly.' (State Tretyakov Gallery, Manuscript Dept., fund 23, chr. 58, 20.XII 1875) Before starting the painting, Makovsky produced sketches in watercolour and oils, as well as notebooks full of drawings of separate figures (figs 1-5). Later, these studies, completed at different times over the years and showing whole scenes and group-compositions, were included in the final canvas.


This painting marks an important stage in Makovsky's creative development. It is his first large, complex work. The works which came before it, which Makovsky exhibited at the Society of Itinerants from 1872, can be seen as exercises for the accumulation of experience and material for this painting.


Makovsky showed the initial 1880 version at a range of exhibitions in Russia and abroad. The painting attracted a great deal of interest at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 (fig.6). After this time, the painting stayed in the artist's possession for a long time. In the mid-1920's, when Makovsky's descendants were selling off his works after his death, the painting came into the private collection of the family of the present owners.

We are grateful to Dr. Galina Churak of the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, for providing this note.