Lot 6
  • 6

Fedor Fedorovich Buchholz

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • Fedor Fedorovich Buchholz
  • The Kissing Rite; Boyar Morozov reveals his wife Elena's secret love for Prince Serebryany
  • signed in Cyrillic l.l.
  • oil on canvas
  • 96 by 160cm., 37 3/4 by 63in.


St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, 1889, no.61 in the exhibition catalogue
Oakland, California, Auction of Frank C.Haven's World Famed Collection of Valuable Paintings, October 1916


Zhivopis'noe obozrenie, 1889, no.36
F.Bulgakov, Nashi khudozhniki, St. Petersburg, 1890 (reprinted 2002), p.67 listed under works for 1889 
 Frank C. Haven's World Famed Collection of Valuable Paintings, California Historical Society, Auction Catalogue 1916, reproduced in Robert C.Williams, Russian Art and American Money 1900-40, Harvard University Press, 1982, p.78


The canvas has been lined. There are fine lines of craquelure throughout. The varnish has discoloured. UV light reveals an opaque layer of varnish with suggestions of old retouching to the background. Held in a gold painted plaster frame. Unexamined out of frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Fedor Buchholz is a noted representative of the latter period of the Academy style in Russian painting. His predominant interests were historical scenes and portraits. Buchholz trained in Saint Petersburg under Pavel Chistyakov and Valery Yakobi and was awarded several prizes by the Academy (three silver medals and one minor gold medal). He finished the Academy in 1886 with the second highest possible honours. He took part in exhibitions organized by, amongst others, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Saint Petersburg Society of Artists, the Society of Russian Watercolourists and the Association of Revolutionary Russian Artists.  He taught in the drawing school of the Petersburg Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, and then in various educational establishments in Leningrad up until 1932. During Soviet rule he painted ­­­­­didactic Socialist Realist works; he died during the blockade of Leningrad in the Second World War.


The picture offered for auction here was finished soon after the artist's successful graduation from the Academy of Fine Arts and was shown at the Academy's 1889 exhibition. Accordingly, one can date it very accurately. The painting is listed as item No. 61 in the Index of Works and is referred to in the catalogue by its full title The Kissing Rite. The Boyar Morozov Reveals His Wife Elena's Secret Love for Prince Serebryany (A Scene from Count Tolstoy's Novel Prince Serebryany). The scene depicted here takes place after supper, when the master of the house (the Boyar Morozov, who is by no means a young man) has told his wife, the beautiful Elena that she must go to the guests, offer them a cup of wine and then kiss them on the lips. Suspecting that Elena is in love with Prince Serebryany, Morozov hopes that the kiss will betray their feelings for each other. Thus the scene is set for a dramatic dénouement.


In an era obsessed with history, Alexei Tolstoy's books, with their emphasis on 'the Russian spirit', were extremely popular with readers and thus attracted the attention of artists. The most famous painting on this subject was to be Konstantin Makovsky's large canvas The Kissing Rite from 1895 (fig.1), post-dating Fyodor Buchholz' composition. Nevertheless, the influence on Buchholz of Makovsky and his famous painting Boyar Wedding Feast in the 17th century at the Hillwood Museum, Washington, is very evident: in this picture, the detailed rendering of the interior, the shelf with the old-fashioned household objects, and even some of the characters' poses are similar. This subject gave the artist a great opportunity both to create an atmosphere of intrigue for the viewer, who was most likely familiar with the popular book, and to showcase the seductive luxury of the traditional life of the Boyars, enriched as it was with expensive accessories, exquisite costumes and beautiful faces. The artist conveys the psychology of the situation, the individuality of the characters and the lavish ornamentation of the scene incredibly convincingly.

We are grateful to Elena Nesterova, Senior Researcher at The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg for providing this note.