Fine Works of Art for Sotheby’s Fall Auction of Russian Art in New York

. October 28, 2009

Sotheby’s fall auction of Russian Art in New York, comprising fine and applied works of art, will be held on Monday November 2, 2009. The sale is largely drawn from esteemed private collections and estates, offering collectors works that are extremely fresh to the market. Among the highlights is a selection of paintings from the Schreiber Collection, one of the finest groupings of modern and avant-garde Russian art assembled in the United States, which includes works by Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova, Boris Dimitrievich Grigoriev and Vladimir Davidovich Baranov-Rossiné. Sotheby’s had the privilege of selling works from this esteemed collection in 2007 and is thrilled to present a second offering. The sale will also feature a number of paintings from other reputed private collections, including works by Ivan Shishkin, Konstantin Korovin and Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich. A large selection of Russian works of art, Fabergé and icons will also be on offer including a rare, recently discovered Peter the Great award portrait miniature with diamonds, considered among the highest honors that one could receive from the Tsar during his reign.

The artist Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova was a favorite of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Schreiber, who began to assemble their collection through reputable galleries and auction houses in the 1970s. The auction will include three important works by Goncharova including “Tournesols,” an exquisite still life composition inspired by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh but rendered in Goncharova’s distinctive and geometric Neo-primitivist style (est. $600/800,000). The painting achieves a remarkable sense of power and it is an exquisite example of a still life by the artist. Two other striking and decorative oils by the artist will also be offered – “Vase de Fleurs” (est. $200/300,000) and “Still Life with Flowers and Fish” (est. $400/600,000), a cubist-inspired painting that has not appeared on the market for nearly 25 years.

Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev
Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev, “Faces of Russia”, Est. $400/600,000. Photo: Sotheby’s

Also from the Schreiber collection are two important works by Boris Dimitrievich Grigoriev, including “Faces of Russia” which was published in the artist’s eponymous book from 1923 and comes from his monumental “Faces of Russia Cycle” (Visages de Russie), an extension of his earlier Rasseia portraiture and one of his most profound and psychologically descriptive series (est. $400/600,000). Although Grigoriev left Russia in 1918, the faces of Russian peasants continued to haunt him and he worked tirelessly on this evolved cycle while living in France in the early 1920s.

Pont-Aven, Evening also by Grigoriev was executed in the summer of 1924 in Pont-Aven, Brittany, where the artist lived with his family and painted at the villa Ker-Anna (est. $300/400,000). It was over the span of that summer that he painted his “Brittany Cycle”, a series of paintings and works on paper that depicted the landscape and faces he encountered there. The painting comes from one of Grigoriev’s most productive periods, a time when his reputation had spread as far afield as the United States and Chile.

Also from the Schreiber collection is an early oil on canvas by Vladimir Davidovich Baranov-Rossiné. Painted during a time when experimentation in the arts permeated all of Europe and artists such as Chagall, Kandinsky and Delaunay experienced their greatest breakthroughs, “La Route en Campagne” from 1911 represents Baranov-Rossiné’s brief Neo-Impressionist period, when his canvases were most boldly colorful and his compositions were fantastically complex (est. $400/600,000).

A highlight of the sale coming from another consignor is “The Brook” by Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (est. $650/750,000). More than any other artist, Shishkin gave Russian artists a confidence and pride in painting their own landscape in the same romantic way that others recorded views of Italy, Germany or England. “The Brook” dates from no later than the 1870s and is an extraordinary work from the height of the artist’s career. Streaming sunlight, towering trees and glimpses of blue sky contribute to a dazzling picture. A small female figure is illuminated by the sun at the centre of the work; interestingly this figure was only revealed after recent restoration.

From a private collection in Germany comes “At the Window” by Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin, an extraordinary double portrait from the artist’s brief time in Berlin in 1923, just before he settled permanently in Paris (est. $600,000/800,000). In this composition Korovin combines his characteristic styles of portrait, interior and cityscape painting, meanwhile depicting the brilliant interplay of light and color at night to create a work that is both peaceful and dynamic.

Boris Grigoriev’s “Mother and Child” is a recently rediscovered masterwork acquired directly from the artist and since kept in a private European collection. The painting is one of only a small number of images the artist created of wife and son together, and its composition expressively captures the intimacy of their relationship (est. $500/700,000). The work was painted in 1918, shortly after the Russian revolution which had brought a public focus on the hardships of the Russian peasantry. It was at this time that Grigoriev started to paint a series of portraits that would become the Rasseia which he displayed at the World of Art exhibition in St Petersburg. This exhibition, which included the current painting, along with the artists self published book Rasseia helped to propel him to the forefront of the international art scene.

“Two Women Sitting Among Trees” by Robert Falk (est. $150/200,000) is another work from a major private collection – the estate of Myrrha Frankfurt who was married to the prominent Russian film director Fyodor Otzep. Their social circle included a number of artistic figures such as Mstislar Rostropovich, Sergei Soudeikine and Falk. The present work was given as a gift by the artist to Myrrha Frankfurt in return for her friendship and financial support. “Two Women Sitting Among Trees” is a strong example of Cézanne’s influence on Falk; its limited palate and rapid brushstrokes create a scene of leisure and tranquility.

A group of paintings by Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich will also be offered in the auction. The sixteen lots, all of which come from private collections, include a number of landscapes such as “Village” from the “Himalayan Series” from 1924 (est. $30/40,000) from a Private Collection in New York and “Dzong” (est. $60/80,000) from a Private Collection in California.

Among the highlights of the dedicated section of and Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons is a Rare Russian Award Portrait Miniature of Peter the Great surrounded by diamonds (est. $80/120,000). As part of the new system of political patronage brought in by Peter awards such as this were given to a very small number of subjects who had performed exceptional acts in service of the Tsar. Research currently suggests that the award of the portrait was an even greater honor than the more common Order of St. Andrew since only ten bejeweled portrait miniatures that were issued. Of these ten, only six are known to exist today, with three in major Russian museum collections. The current miniature is the largest of these remaining awards. It has been tucked away in a private American collection, unknown to scholars, since 1951.

The sale will also include a fine selection of items by Fabergé’s workmasters. Among the highlights is a Fabergé Gold and Gem-set Kovsh (est. $40/60,000), a rare example of a jeweler adapting the ancient Russian form to a Rococo aesthetic.

A number of choice works have been consigned by a Prominent New York Collector including a Fabergé Silver and Wood Multiple Photograph Frame, workmaster Karl Gustav, circa 1910 (est. $30/50,000), a Fabergé Silver Gilt, Translucent Enamel and Jeweled Cigarette Case, emblazoned with an Imperial eagle by workmaster August Hollming, circa 1910 (est. $30/50,000), and a Fabergé Gilded Silver and Translucent Enamel Folding Screen Photograph Frame, workmaster Johan Victor Aarne, circa 1900 (pictured, est. $60/80,000). From another collector comes a Fabergé Silver-Mounted Pendant of Christ Pantocrator, Moscow, circa 1910 (est. $15/20,000).

Category: Auction News

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