BORIS MIKHAILOVICH KUSTODIEV
Portrait of Count Alexei Pavlovich Ignatiev
signed in Cyrillic and dated 1902 t.l.; further bearing various labels on the stretcher and reverse
oil on canvas
80 by 58.5cm, 31½ by 23in.
Original canvas on the original stretcher. The paint surface has recently been cleaned and varnished. There are minor frame abrasions along the edges. Craquelure is visible in places, most notably to the epaulette and sash. There is a very fine scratch through the piping to the left of the top button on the sitter's chest and a scuff to the white of his right cuff. Inspection under UV light reveals scattered in-painting to the background in the upper right quadrant, to the table in the foreground, to the sitter's sleeve and hand and around his head. Very minor scattered retouching is visible elsewhere. Held in a black-painted wooden frame. Unexamined out of frame.
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St Petersburg, Tauride Palace, Istoriko-khudozhestvennaya vystavka russkikh portretov, 1905, no.1705
Paris, Grand Palais, L'Exposition de l'art russe, 1906, no.237
Venice, VII Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte di Venezia, 1907
Vienna, Sezession, Russische Maler, 1908
Exhibition catalogue Istoriko-khudozhestvennaya vystavka russkikh portretov, St Petersburg, 1905, p.48, no.1705 listed
Exhibition catalogue Salon d'automne: L'Exposition de l'art russe, Paris, 1906, p.50, no.237 listed
E.Charles, 'L'Exposition de l'Art russe', Liberté, 23 October 1906, p.2 mentioned in the text
Exhibition catalogue VII Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte di Venezia, Catalogo Illustrato, Venice, 1907, p.121, no.20 listed
L.Hevesi, 'Russische Maler', Fremden-Blatt, 7 November 1908, no.307, p.19 mentioned in the text
I.Pikulev, Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev: 1878-1927, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1951, p.9 mentioned in the text
M.Etkind, Boris Kustodiev, Moscow: Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1982, p.58, no.87 listed
Russian Artists at the Venice Biennale, 1895-2013, Moscow: Stella Art Foundation, 2013, p.152 mentioned in the text (incorrect painting listed and illustrated)
The present work is a study for Ceremonial Meeting of the State Council on May 7, 1901, a large-scale canvas conceived and eventually completed by Ilya Repin with the assistance of his two talented students Boris Kustodiev and Ivan Kulikov (fig.3). The painting was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II to commemorate the centenary of the State Council, an event celebrated with a ceremonial meeting in the Round Room of the Mariinsky Palace in St Petersburg.
At that time the fifty-six-year-old Ilya Repin was at the peak of his career and accepted the colossal task with great enthusiasm. However, having trouble with his right hand, he asked for permission to hire assistants for the work. After five years at the Imperial Academy of Arts and three years in Repin's studio, Kustodiev was an experienced portraitist with a style that shared many similarities with the great master's, making him a perfect candidate.
In preparation for the piece, Repin and his two students executed a great number of studies and sketches, even using a tripod camera on the day of the meeting to capture the exact poses and facial expressions of the members. In all Kustodiev completed 27 preparatory portraits, including the present lot depicting Count Alexei Pavlovich Ignatiev, Governor-general of Kiev, Podol, Volhynia and Irkutsk.
Ceremonial Meeting of the State Council on May 7, 1901 was finalised and presented to the public in the Mariinsky palace on the 4th January, 1904. Kustodiev's extensive contribution inspired him to create his own version of the work in 1903, now in the collection of the National Museum of the Republic of Belarus.
Kustodiev's Portrait of Count Alexei Pavlovich Ignatiev met with immediate success and has been exhibited a number of times in both Russia and Europe, first in 1905 at the Historical Russian Portraits Exhibition at the Tauride Palace in St Petersburg. A year later the portrait was shown in Paris at the Russian Art Exhibition organised by Sergei Diaghilev as part of the Autumn Salon. The portrait's appearance at the Venice Biennale in 1907 (fig.1) was followed by very positive reviews, with critics praising Kustodiev's skill and describing him as an artist who 'has nothing to envy of the English portraitists, matching them in richness and artifice' (Russian Artists at the Venice Biennale, 1895-2013, p.152). Kustodiev was delighted with the exhibition and wrote to his wife Yulia: 'There are not many of us, but all displayed excellently, and my big portrait is opposite the door in a place of honour. I very much like Ignatiev's portrait too' (Ibid.). In 1908 the work was included in the exhibition of Russian art in Vienna which took place at the iconic Secession building.