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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Christie’s New York Russian Art Sale

Christie’s Russian Art sale on 23 April in New York comprises an extensive representation of the history of Russian Art from 18th century works of art to 21st century paintings. A silver and enamelled Imperial presentation charger by Sazikov leads an impressive section of 210 works of art, highlighted by a wide selection of cloisonné enamels and more than 60 works by Fabergé. In 2009 Christie’s New York established a market share of more than 60% for works of art by the renowned house of Fabergé in the US. Among the paintings, Konstantin Makovsky’s In from a stroll will lead a fine selection of paintings from the 19th to 21st centuries.

David Burliuk (1882-1967) is represented with several paintings in the auction, one of which is Washington Market, Tribeca, 1931. Estimate: $40,000-60,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

An exciting highlight that rarely appears on the market is a silver and enameled Imperial presentation charger by Sazikov (estimate: $400,000-600,000), presented by the Nobility of Smolensk to Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna in their coronation year of 1883. The charger was purchased by a diplomat in Europe in the early 1930s and has since descended in the same family and is offered for the first time at auction. Such large chargers, or bread and salt dishes, were offered on coronation day during the reigns of Emperors Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II by visiting provincial dignitaries who presented the Emperor with bread and salt in an elaborate ceremony held in the Kremlin Palace. Of traditional circular form, the chargers vary in design and were executed by the leading silversmiths and jewelers of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Founded in Moscow in 1793 by Pavel Fedorovich Sazikov, the firm was one of the most wellregarded in Imperial Russia and from 1846 was one of the main suppliers to the Imperial Court. In the latter half of the 19th century, Sazikov was a regular exhibitor at international exhibitions and won numerous awards.

Another highlight is a large and important two-handled porcelain vase, by the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg, dated 1843, period of Nicholas I (estimate: $700,000-900,000). The vase depicts on the front King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia (1770-1840), the father of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1798-1860) of Russia, nee Princess Charlotte of Prussia, the wife of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855) of Russia. The reverse depicts King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia (1795-1861) also after a painting by Franz Krüger, executed in 1840. The vase, closely related to another important campana vase painted with a portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm III and preserved in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, is again based on a portrait by Franz Krüger, the esteemed Prussian court painter and favourite portraitist of Emperor Nicholas I, which hangs in the Military Gallery of the State Hermitage Museum.

Included in the selection of more than 60 Fabergé objects a Rococo style silver-gilt and guilloche enamelled desk clock by the firm’s head workmaster Michael Perchin, made circa 1890 in St Petersburg (estimate: $180,000-200,000), pictured left. A jewelled gold presentation pin by Fabergé is another exquisite presentation object given by Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich to the Cossack leader George Kontratievich Borodin in 1891 (estimate: $15,000-20,000).

Konstantin Makovsky was born in 1839 in Moscow and became one of the most successful painters of the late 19th century in Russia. A member of the Academy of Fine Arts, his paintings were widely exhibited in both Russia and abroad. While he is today remembered foremost for his paintings of 17th century boyar life, he gained his earliest success as a portrait painter of imperial patrons and the nobility. Among his most important sitters was Tsar Alexander II, who referred to Makovsky as “my painter.”

In from a stroll (estimate: $400,000-600,000), depicts a well-dressed young woman, who has seemingly just returned from collecting roses. At a glance it is readily clear that the artist is less interested in capturing the psychology and minute details of the figure than in conveying the idealized beauty of the figure and a general sense of calm in the atmosphere. Makovsky’s dynamic brushstrokes and emphasis on light are evidence of the influence that Impressionist paintings and artists had on his technique following his visit to Paris earlier in his life. The painting seems to disassociate the enchanting young woman from reality. Perhaps Konstantin Makovsky’s son Sergei Makovsky, aptly described his father’s approach to reality and his working method when he wrote: “…he would lay his hands upon the brushes and immediately settle on the task – he would find the composition and colour spectrum, and transfer to canvas that which he saw or that which he wanted to see in nature.”

The visit of the Lama, which depicts two Mongolians and a lama was completed by Alexandre Iacovleff in 1933 (estimate: $150,000-250,000), upon his return to Paris from the Trans-Asiatic La Croisière jaune expedition, which was sponsored by Andre Citroen.

The visit of the Lama was likely based upon a sketch that Iacovleff executed during the group’s travel to Mongolia early in 1932. The travellers witnessed an important visit of the spiritual leader, the Pantchen Lama (known as the living Buddha) to the court of a Mongolian Prince, His Hsu-ning. While it is uncertain whether the lama that Iacovleff chose to depict in the present painting is the Pantchen Lama, the headdress of the standing figure informs us the figure is a female member of the Mongolian aristocracy, and the fur collar and hat worn by the seated figure in the center suggest that he is one of the princes since the costumes closely match the detailed descriptions in George Lefèvre accounts from the expedition.

David Burliuk (1882-1967) is represented with several paintings in the auction, one of which is Washington Market, Tribeca, 1931 (estimate: $40,000-60,000). The work is thought to depict Reade Street and the Washington Market area of Tribeca; the view is towards the Morse building which was designated a New York City landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Committee in 2006. The market itself was razed in the 1970s, and a small park by its name is all that remains of what was once New York’s principal produce market.