The 2ft 10½in x 3ft 4in (88cm x 1.02m) oil on canvas portrait of the artist David Burliuk (1882-1967) by his contemporary Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964) was offered at Artcurial (25/20/14% buyer’s premium).
Inscribed to the reverse in cyrillic Larionov portrait and also Larionov in roman letters, it has been identified as one of a series of four portraits painted by Larionov, probably in the summer of 1910 at the Burliuk family estate in the Ukraine.
Two of these, depicting the artist Vladimir Burliuk and a family friend, Antosha Besval, are in the Musée des Beaux-Arts Lyon and the Ludwig Museum Cologne respectively, while a third, of the playwright Velimir Khlebnikov, is in a private collection.
All four use the same format of a three-quarter profile and show the subjects in white shirts with their bodies boldly outlined in black – the neo-primitive painting style favoured by the avant-garde at the time.
Diamonds to donkey
Burliuk and Larionov, together with such well-known artists as Natalia Gontcharovna and Kasimir Malevitch, were part of the Knave of Diamonds group formed in 1910 and in existence until 1917.
However, Larionov broke away in 1911 to create The Donkey’s Tail group, which would make the painting at Artcurial a work created just before the two artists went their separate ways.
The vendor acquired the painting in the sale of a major collection of modern paintings held at the Hôtel Drouot in 1992 where the work was titled Self portrait, undoubtedly, says Artcurial’s catalogue, due to a poor translation of the notation in Russian on the back of the canvas, although it was subsequently reidentified as a portrait of Burluik.
It was offered in the Modern Art sale staged as part of Artcurial’s December 8 Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary series with an estimate of €250,000-350,000.
On the day the competition was such that it ended up selling for €2.4m (£2.05m) to an international collector.