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The Golden Age of Russian Impressionism


 

 

Russian Art Finds More Success at Christie’s


Art Fortune | Art Discoveries


 

Courtesy Christie'sThe sale's top lot was Svetoslav Roerich’s "Portrait of [his father] Nicholas Roerich in a Tibetan Robe" (1933), which sold for $2,994,500 (est . $900,000–1.1 million), eclipsing the artist's record, set just a week earlier.

  

Courtesy Christie'sThe elder Roerich’s "The Greatest and Holiest of Tangla" (1929) sold for $1,426,500, well above it its $300–500,000 estimate.

  

NEW YORK—With major impressionist and modern and postwar and contemporary sales less than three weeks away, the art world is anxiously waiting to see if new price levels will be established and recovery will commence. On Friday, Christie's Russian art sale provided hopes of such a possibility, as the 390-lot, two-session sale earned $13,225,125 (including buyer’s premiums), falling comfortably within the pre-sale estimate of $9.5–13.8 million.

The diverse auction, which included 19th- and 20th-century paintings, icons, and Fabergé works, achieved sold rates of 69 percent by lot and 80 percent by value.

  

Mark Moehrke, Christie’s Russian senior specialist, credited sensible estimates and a variety of bidders for the success of the sale. “The market responded well to rare works of art and Fabergé at attractive estimates, and we witnessed very competitive bidding from a diverse international client base,” he said.

 

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The highlight of the sale was Svetoslav Roerich’s Portrait of Nicholas Roerich in a Tibetian Robe (1933), a portrait of the artist’s father, which sold for $2,994,500 (est. $900,000–1.1 million). A bidding war over the work concluded with a stirring applause from the 60 or so people in the sales room. The price smashed the artist's previous auction record, set just 48 hours prior when his Three Boddisatvas (1920–29) sold for $266,500 at Sotheby’s comparable Russian sale.

  

Christie's second-highest earner was by the subject of that portrait. Nicholas Roerich’s The Greatest and Holiest of Tangla (1929) sold for $1,426,500, lapping its $300–500,000 estimate. The work, depicting the Tangla mountain range in Tibet, is one of only eight known paintings by Roerich depicting such a motif.

  

Meanwhile, the morning session, consisting primarily of Fabergé and icons, produced several outperforming lots, most notably an important parcel-gilt silver and Niello soup tureen, with the mark of Semen Petrov Kuzov (c. 1795). The piece, which was sold on behalf of the estate of William and Eleanor Wood Prince, the late Chicago-based collectors and philanthropists, fetched a staggering $338,500 (est. $20–30,000), 1,138 percent of the pre-sale high estimate.

  

Similarly, a jeweled and gold-mounted chalcedony model of a parrot on a perch made of silver gilt and guilloché enamel, marked Fabergé, with the workmaster’s mark of Mikhail Perchin (1896–1903), realized $290,500, against a meager pre-sale estimate of $30–50,000.

 

The afternoon session, when the paintings were offered, got off to a laggard start, with only 13 of the first 36 lots finding buyers. It was then that auctioneer James Hastie, the auction house’s head of Russian art, lightened the mood of the room by opening the auction for Leonid Pasternak’s expressive still life Lilacs and Poppies (est. $50–70,000) by saying, “To be honest, I’ve got to think it’s worth $40,000, so let’s start at $40,000.”

 

 

Hastie’s approach worked. The oil on canvas eventually realized a price of $92,500, and eight of the following nine lots sold as well.

 

Despite the auction’s success, the market’s downturn was still in evidence. To put Friday’s good result in perspective, last year’s equivalent sale featured 100 fewer lots but earned $4.37 million more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 















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