Property from a Private Collection, France
ALEXEI PETROVICH BOGOLIUBOV | VENICE AT DUSK
Estimate: 400,000 - 600,000 GBP
ALEXEI PETROVICH BOGOLIUBOV
VENICE AT DUSK
signed twice in Cyrillic l.r. and l.l.
oil on canvas
105 by 152cm, 41¼ by 59¾in.
The canvas is unlined and is securely attached to a keyed wooden stretcher. There is a very small puncture in the extreme upper left corner of the composition and a very small diagonal tear in the extreme upper right. A small triangular distortion is situated above the far-left part of the lower edge which appears to relate to a stretcher key trapped between the canvas and the lower stretcher member. There is a patched repair in the centre left and a further patched repair in the upper right quadrant as viewed from the reverse. These appear stable. There are various slightly raised linear distortions, including corresponding to the seven stretcher members and running intermittently below the upper edge.
The paint surface has a relatively even varnish layer. The paint surface displays an overall pattern of slightly raised lines of craquelure. These appear stable. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows a discoloured and opaque varnish layer covering passages of the composition. Inspection under ultraviolet light also shows fairly extensive scattered retouchings including corresponding the patched repairs visible on the reverse, and:
1) numerous retouchings within the sky including several large areas in the centre left of the composition
2) scattered retouchings within the architecture
3) retouchings within the water and the boats
4) intermittent retouchings on and close to the extreme edges of the composition
Many of these retouchings appear excessive and could hopefully be reduced with more careful inpainting.
The painting would therefore appear to be in fair and stable condition having undergone significant restoration work in the past.
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.
Alexei Bogoliubov, a graduate of the St Petersburg Imperial Academy first arrived in Venice in mid-October 1854 and stayed until December. On the 21st November he witnessed the Festa della Salute, a magnificent celebration commemorating the city’s liberation from the plague. In his Notes of a Sailor-Artist, the young Bogoliubov dramatically recalled the solemn appearance of the Doge’s galley and the mass of boats and gondolas on the Canal: ‘The impression was wondrous, specifically at dusk when illuminations were lit along every length of the church, stretching to buildings across the Grand Canal, blurring the layers of soot from the small lamps with the fog from the fading day and setting sun. The splash of oars, the disorder, the jostling of boats – it was all hugely enchanting!’ (A.P. Bogoliubov, Zapiski moryaka-khudozhnika, Samara, 2014, p.76)
Santa Maria della Salute, which was built at the beginning of the 17th century and integrated seamlessly into the architecture of the city, is one of the most beautiful and revered cathedrals in Italy and appears in many of Bogoliubov’s Venetian canvases. The artist confessed that he could have painted ‘not one, but ten variations on the subject’ which by exploiting public demand would have provided him with a steady income, ‘but since that would not be art, but craft, I refrained from further repetitions’ (Ibid.).
The first version of this composition, dating to 1856, belonged to the wealthy merchant A.G. Kuznetsov, later Moscow’s Rumyantsev Museum and is now exhibited at the Tula Regional Art Museum.
For The Eve of the Celebration, Santa Maria Della Salute, Venice, painted in 1867 for the Queen of Denmark, Bogoliubov was awarded the Order of the Dannebrog. For over a century and a half this spectacular Venetian cityscape with its grand procession of gondolas was at the Amalienborg in Copenhagen. In 2010 the painting was sold at Sotheby’s for almost double its estimate (fig.1).
The present cityscape from a private French collection, is most like his earlier versions of the subject. It is painted in the Romantic tradition of the Academy – the dark silhouettes of the cathedral and surrounding buildings, emphasised by the fires of the illuminations, stand out against the clear evening sky. The dramatic lighting, contrasts between light and shade and animated figures of the gondoliers and citizens bring a touch of drama to a conventional panoramic scene. One of five possible nighttime views of the Festa della Salute featured in the literature whose present whereabouts are unknown, it was possibly bought by the wealthy Russian entrepreneur Ivan Varugin or Georgy Eliseev. Two of the other versions belonged to the collection of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich Romanov in Paris and to Bogoliubov’s good friend, the financier Artur Rafalovich in Trouville.
We are grateful to Lyudmila Pashkova of the Radischev State Museum of Fine Arts for providing this catalogue note.