Art Collection of Cultural and Social Historical Import Goes to Auction at DuMouchelle Art Galleries

. January 14, 2008

DuMouchelle Art Galleries, Inc., one of the leading United States art galleries, announces the auction of an art collection, culturally and socially significant to Russian and United States history. The entire collection is that of Prince Serge Obolensky, former husband to Russian Czar Alexander II’s daughter, Princess Catherine Yourievsky, and later to U.S. real-estate tycoon Colonel John Jacob Astor IV’s daughter, Alice Astor. Obolensky was a prominent figure in the Astor family and later Hilton International’s New York hotel business. Presently, the entire collection, previously secluded and unseen, is on preview until January 18th, when the auction begins and runs through the 20th. The location is the historic DuMouchelle Galleries building in Detroit, Michigan, 409 East Jefferson Avenue, across from the Renaissance Center.

The Obolensky collection boasts everything from Russian and French bronze sculptures to French Art Deco perfume bottles and Russian carved rock crystal candlesticks and silver medals commemorating decisive battles of the 18th (1700s) and 19th (1800s) centuries.

This collection’s piece-de-resistance is an oil painting depicting voluptuous roses and lilacs by the Russian painter, Saveli Abramovich Sorine — known for his many portraits of the rich and famous. Sorine, who fled Russia during the Revolution, gave this painting to his good friend, the Prince, as a wedding gift; inscribed in Cyrillic with the translation — “Given to Serge & Alice (Astor) on 24 July 1924 As A Prent (sic) on Their Wedding (sic).”

Another lot, attracting considerable interest, is a vivid watercolor of wildflowers painted by Russia’s Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. Her artworks are in the collections of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. She was the youngest sister of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II, assassinated with his family by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Noted as the “The Last Romanov Grand Duchess of Russia,” she lived out her 78 years retired to a farm outside of Toronto, where she was known to have been visited Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles.

Since her husband’s death in 1978 at age 87, the collected works of art and artifacts were cared for by Princess Obolensky until her death last October. It reveals Prince Serge’s amazing saga, which began as a Russian prince in Czarist Russia to his whirlwind life through a revolution, two world wars, landing in New York’s post-war high society, and retiring in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan in the 1970s. The art also offers the discovery of stories of a lifetime that most read about only in books. Tolstoy wrote of Obolensky’s father and his famous horse race in “Anna Karenina.” His great-grandfather helped turn back Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. His great, great, great grandmother inspired one of Tchaikovsky’s last operas.

In his book “One Man in His Time,” Obolensky describes his aristocratic upbringing, “…brilliant uniforms, much jewelry, and fine horses and carriages.” World War I saw Obolensky earn three St. George’s Crosses (equivalent to the U.S. Medal of Honor) for valor. In the Russian Revolution, the Oxford-educated prince became a marked man after fighting with the anti-Bolshevik Tartars, culminating in a daring escape to England after a year of hiding in Moscow. After divorcing, he remarried in 1924 to Alice Astor. Her father built The Astoria Hotel (adjoining his cousin’s Waldorf) and died aboard The Titanic. Later in life, Obolensky married Marilyn Wall of Grosse Pointe Farms.

During World War II, Obolensky, 53 and the U.S. Army’s oldest paratrooper, rose from buck private to Lt. Colonel. He gained renown for leading a daring parachute drop into Sardinia, carrying General Eisenhower’s letters and successfully talking the Italians into surrendering, and securing a captive OSS team’s release. Obolensky also became a hotel business legend, overseeing operations of renowned hotels as the Plaza, the Sherry-Netherland, the St. Regis, the Ambassador, and the Astor, and rising to Vice President of Hilton International. In 1949 he started a public relations firm, landing accounts like Harry Winston and Piper-Heidsieck. His friends included high-profile and elite names within social and political circles including the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, Grace Vanderbilt, Marjorie Merriweather-Post, Ginger Rogers, and Marilyn Monroe.

About DuMouchelle Art Galleries, Inc.:

Detroit-based DuMouchelle, founded in 1927, is among the top ten auction galleries in the Untied States. DuMouchelle appraises and auctions, monthly, over 2,000 lots of fine arts and collectibles — paintings, furniture, oriental rugs, silver, crystal, and jewelry — to bidders in person and by phone and the Internet. The company has grown from a local entity to national and international renown in the fine arts community. The DuMouchelle Galleries guiding principles start with the client — focus on personal service and long-term relationships. For further information please visit our website at www.auctiondetroit.com.

Category: Auction News

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