The latest series of Russian art auctions in London set a combined hammer total of £42.7m to make it the most lucrative since the market peaked in June 2008.
All four salerooms staging auctions in this
sector saw their events topped by particular paintings that caught
the eye of wealthy Russian-speaking private buyers, although the
selling rates continued to be generally patchy.
The top lot of the week was Madonna
Laboris by Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich
(1874-1947), a tempera on canvas from 1931 depicting the
Virgin Mary at the gates of Paradise, which drew dramatic
competition and set a major record for the artist.
Sourced from an American vendor whose
grandmother had received it as a gift, it appeared at
Bonhams on June 5 estimated at £800,000-1.2m.
With apocryphal stories being key to
Roerich's artistic imagination and this picture demonstrating how
the artist was inspired by Byzantine art, it attracted bidding well
over these levels and was eventually knocked down at £7m to a
private buyer on the phone.
This was a truly enormous price considering
the artist's previous auction high (according to Artnet) was the
premium-inclusive £1.76m seen for Himself Came that sold
at Sotheby's in 2007.
The same sale also set a record for
Alexander Volkov (1886-1957) when The Child
Musicians from 1926 took £1.8m against a £200,000-400,000
pitch. Although a later work by the artist from 1944 entitled
Tomato Harvest from the same source was unsold, these two
record pictures provided the bulk of the sale's £10.8m total from
Russian art specialists
MacDougall's posted an overall hammer total of £7.5m for their
sales held last week. Here, a record was set for Ivan
Shishkin (1832-98) when the oil-on-canvas Twilight
from 1896 took a top-estimate £1.8m. The buyer was from an
ex-Soviet republic while, interestingly, an Italian was among the
underbidders. The picture itself depicted a pine forest, a favoured
subject for the artist.
Also at MacDougall's was Mikhail
Nesterov's (1862-1942) Wayfarers, Beyond the
Volga from 1922 that took £1.5m (estimate £1.4m-3m).
A further auction record last week was the
£4.2m seen for Ilya Mashkov's (1881-1944)
Still life with fruit which led
Christie's 284-lot sale of Russian art on June 3. Dating from
1910, it was originally shown at the inaugural Jack of
Diamonds exhibition in Moscow, one of the most significant
exhibitions of Russian Avant-Garde pictures.
With the bidding going well over the £1m
-1.5m estimate, it was eventually knocked down to a private buyer
and provided a very useful contribution to the sale's £10.4m hammer
Sotheby's posted a combined hammer total of £13.9m from their
four sales held over the week.
Their evening sale on June 3 was led a
painting by Nikolai Fechin (1881-1955), a double
portrait of his wife and daughter that made £1.25m from a CIS
private buyer against a £500,000-700,000 estimate.
Strong competition was also seen at their day sale of Russian
paintings when a gouache portrait by Yuri Pavlovich
Annenkov (1889-1974) overshot a £150,000-200,000 estimate
and was knocked down at £750,000 also to a CIS private buyer.