Despite the unhelpful backdrop of Ukraine politics and the threat of economic sanctions, the Russian art market continued on its mercurial journey in the first week of June. The characteristic patchy selling rates for the ‘Londongrad’ sales were accompanied by moments of remarkable competition.
three separate catalogues for their June 2-3 Russian offering. The
core of their 37-lot, £15.44m evening sale on June 2 was a German
private collection of paintings of the Russian avant
The 11 works had been acquired by the
father of the vendor in the 1970s and the returns were
Aristarkh Lentulov's Children with
Parasols c.1912, bought for £180 at a Sotheby's sale in 1974,
sold at £1.8m, while Ukrainian Vasdily Ermilov's Cubist oil and
metal on wood Self Portrait c.1922, sold at Sotheby's for £4000 in
1973, took £820,000.
Works of art and a daytime sale of
Russian pictures the following day brought the final hammer total
to £19.8m - the best of the season and at Sotheby's in this
category since 2008 - and this despite selling rates of roughly
Christie's sold the
top-priced work of the series when the Orientalist oil The
Pearl Mosque at Agra by Vasily Vereshchagin sold for a
double-estimate £3.2m. It was one of two works by the artist sold
to benefit the acquisitions fund of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art
Center at Vassar College in New York and had not appeared at
auction for a century.
Portraits of the elite
But it was a series of portraits of
members of the ruling elite c.1800 by Vladamir Borovikovsky that
contributed most to the aggregate of £20.2m.
This quintet, consigned by Prince Ivan
Obolensky (b.1925), whose father Serge built a major collection of
Russian works of art as it emerged on the market after 1917,
carried estimates of up to £70,000 each but took sums of between
£500,000 and £2.6m apiece, the latter for Portrait of Countess
Liubov Il'inichna Kusheleva, née Bezborodko with her two children
Aleksandr and Grigorii c.1803. All five pictures sold to the
On June 4 MacDougall's
recorded premium-inclusive sales of £10.3m. The top-selling lots
were Boy with a Cap Sitting on a Chair c.1910-11, a
Cézanne-inspired oil by 'Jack of Diamonds' painter Robert
Rafailovich Falk sold for £800,000, and Pavel Kuznetsov's
Eastern City, Bukara, dated 1912, a well-known work from
the artist's Central Asian series, sold at £1.9m.
William MacDougall, director, told
ATG: "Confidence has returned to the market after the
worries about Ukraine and sanctions of the last few
The same day Bonhams sold
62% of their 163 lots for a hammer total of £5.1m. Two lots
dominated proceedings: The Signal Fires of Peace, a
politically-charged oil of 1917-18 by Nikolai Konstantinovich
Roerich sold at its top estimate of £1.2m, and a Fabergé hardstone figure of a
bourgeoise c.1913 sold at a double-estimate £1m.
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