Impressive Auction Highlights from Russian Collectors

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Sotheby's history in Russia began as early as 1988 with a groundbreaking sale of Avant-Garde and Soviet Art that realised more than £2 million. The first auction of Russian Art at Sotheby's London was held in 2002, and since then Sotheby’s has held many exciting and successful sales in the category. Click ahead to read the stories of some auction highlights with Russian provenance.

These works, along with many other pieces sourced in Russia, will be on view at Moscow's Ivanovsky Hall of the Российская государственная библиотека (Russian State Library) on 24 May from 10am to 3pm, an exhibition celebrating 10 years of Sotheby's in Moscow.

For more information about Sotheby's Moscow, view our Moscow location page.

Impressive Auction Highlights from Russian Collectors

  • Nikolai Fechin, Mrs Fechin and Daughter, 1935. Sold for £1,482,500 at Sotheby’s London.
    This stunning work is thought to be the last in a series of double portraits of the artist’s his wife Alexandra Nikolaevna and their daughter Eya. The composition of the portrait is distinctive, blending a still life with a genre scene, and the complex technical elements are all executed superbly, from the combination of different textures, the manner of conveying various different materials, and the varying depictions of light.

  • Aleksandr Rodchenko, The Juggler, 1935. Sold for $508,800 at Sotheby’s New York.
    The Juggler is a remarkable work by the Constructivist master, executed at a crucial moment in his career. The placement of the sole juggler figure accentuates his isolation, bringing to mind Rodchenko’s repeated pleas that art and politics not intersect. This nuanced, unusual combination of vitality and meditation conveys an optimistic spirit asserting itself during the height of creative repression.

  • Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, The Galata Tower by Moonlight, 1845. Sold for £825,250 at Sotheby’s London.
    The Galata Tower by Moonlight is among Aivazovsky's earliest views of Constantinople. Exceptionally detailed, beautifully balanced and lit with such sophistication that each distant tree, rooftop and sail adds another layer of depth to the canvas, it is an outstanding example of the high standards of which he was capable.

  • Pavel Tchelitchew, Bullfight, 1934. Sold for £677,000 at Sotheby’s London.
    As a symbol for man's triumph over the ferocity of nature, bullfights have captivated artists for centuries, from Goya and Manet to Picasso and Konchalovsky. In Tchelitchew’s 1934 work the corrida transforms into an open-air theatrical dance between man and bull, and the accent shifts to the virility and sensuality of the protagonists. The theatricality of the spectacle is accentuated by the row of eerie spectators at the far right.

  • Boris Izrailevich Anisfeld, Sadko, The Underwater Kingdom, 1911. Sold for £100,000 at Sotheby’s London.
    Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes production of Sadko premiered in Paris in 1911. The ballet was based on a single scene of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's original opera and Boris Anisfeld's design depicts the wedding of the musician Sadko and the Sea Princess Volkova in her watery kingdom.

  • Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin, Still Life with Roses and Fruit, 1921. Sold for £804,000 at Sotheby’s London.
    This work was acquired directly from the artist in the early 1920s by Alexander Konstantinovsky, one of Russia's leading financiers. Initially he was a great collector of Old Master paintings, but at the time of the 1905 Revolution, he abandoned part of this collection. When he settled in Vienna and later Berlin, he built up his collection again with works by contemporary artists such as Korovin, whose pictures he bought in the early 1920s, when the Gallery of Karl Nikolai, Berlin mounted an exhibition of his work.

  • Vasili Vasilievich Vereshchagin, The Adjutant. Sold for £690,850 at Sotheby’s London.
    The Adjutant is one of a number of canvases that make up Vereshchagin's Balkan series, depicting scenes from the Russo-Turkish War. The young artist, inspired by the Russian cause, volunteered with the Imperial Army and was assigned to General Mikhail Skobelev's regiment. The resulting series of paintings proved to be the artist's most dramatic and controversial group of works, unsentimentally depicting the carnage of war.

  • Georges Seurat, L'Hospice et le phare de Honfleur, 1886. Sold for £657,250 at Sotheby’s London.
    Following in the footsteps of Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet, who depicted this lighthouse twenty years earlier, Georges Seurat set up his easel in the flourishing port of Honfleur in the summer of 1886. The leading Neo-Impressionist had just finished his masterwork Un Dimanche après-midi à l'Ile de la Grande Jatte, and stayed on the Normandy coast from mid-June to mid-August. The panel L'Hospice et le phare de Honfleur is a study for the major painting of the same title, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

  • Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Peasants' Brawl – 'La rixe des paysans'. Sold for £869,000 at Sotheby’s London.
    Neither Pieter Bruegel the Elder nor his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger shied away from presenting everyday peasant life in all its many forms. Here a fight has broken out between two peasants armed with a pitchfork and a flail, and four others, including two brave women, attempt to intervene, with painful results. No overt moral meaning is seemingly attached, but the barrel and flagon together with the scattered playing cards clearly suggest the cause of the quarrel, and the contrast with the peaceful village street beyond is plain.

  • A Fabergé gilded silver and shaded enamel small kovsh, Moscow, circa 1900. Sold for $157,000 at Sotheby’s New York.
    This beautiful kovsh , a traditional Russian drinking vessel, is enameled with stylized flowers and geometric ornament in dark blue, forest green, brown, and olive green on a white ground and the interior is gilded.

  • Seven portrait miniatures of the children of Tsar Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna on sculptural stands, 19th century. Sold for $ 192,000 at Sotheby’s New York.
    Each child is depicted at a similar age and it can therefore be assumed that these miniatures were painted over a period of time, according to the various dates of birth of the children. Missing from this set of seven miniatures is that of the first-born child, Grand Duchess Alexandra, who died at a very young age.


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