Rare Masterpieces Headline MacDougall’s Russian Art Sales

By Nicholas Mclaughlin
Epoch times Staff
Created: Jun 1, 2011 Last Updated: Jun 1, 2011
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MacDougall Auctions regularly breaks records in sales of its specialist area of Russian art and is consistently one of the top three auction houses in the world for Russian Art.

On June 8 and 9, MacDougall’s will showcase many works during Russian week in London, highlighted by a Boris Kustodiev masterpiece, a rare work thought to be lost, and one only before seen in a black-and-white photo.

The sale items will be on exhibition in London June 3–7.

Descriptions From MacDougall’s

Following are the auction house’s descriptions of a few key paintings and their histories.

‘Portrait of Irina Kustodieva.’ Painted in 1911 while Boris Kustodiev was undergoing treatment in the Swiss resort town of Leysin, this intimate portrait of his daughter Irina was included in the 1912–1913 World of Art exhibition in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev, as well as the Baltic Exhibition in Malmö in 1914.

In 1924, it was shown at the Russian Art Exhibition in New York and was subsequently acquired by an American collector. Offered for the first time at auction, “Portrait of Irina Kustodieva” is estimated at $2,000,000–$3,000,000.

'THE NEW BRACELET': Previously believed to be lost, this is a rare work of fine art by Genrikh Semiradsky (c. 1883), an Academic and Neoclassical artist. Considered to be on a par with artists such as Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, whose works have recently sold for over $30 million, the sale could see interesting results. (Courtesy of MacDougall's)
‘The New Bracelet.’ Another rediscovery of art-historical significance is Genrikh Semiradsky’s “The New Bracelet” (c. 1883) estimated at $400,000–$500,000. “The New Bracelet,” also known as “Dolce Far Niente,” is a rare and happy discovery, not only for the art market, but also for the academic world.

Alongside Victorian artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Semiradsky was one of the most significant Neoclassical painters of the late 19th century. A particularly fine example of the artist’s oeuvre, “The New Bracelet” was acquired by the great-grandfather of the present owner and remained in the same North American collection for more than a century. Illustrated in a pre-revolutionary monograph, the painting was until recently believed to be lost.

Semiradsky (1843–1902) was one of the pivotal artists of late 19th-century Academicism, figuring in both Russian and Polish culture and, above all, in the cosmopolitan world of European Neoclassicism. He was known as “the last classicist” of 19th-century art, but this classicist lived and worked in an epoch when Realism reigned supreme.

In both his large and small-scale canvases, the distant world of ancient civilizations is brought to life by the illusion of sunlight and this polymath artist’s thorough knowledge of history, and, with his brush, he bestows a polished artistry upon this distant world.

He easily persuades us that antiquity is no golden vision dreamed up by man, but palpable reality. The tangible, sensuous, colorful image of antiquity created by Semiradsky became a kind of standard, and his pictures served as source material for works of literature set in “antiquity.”

One favorite motif that is constantly present in Semiradsky’s work of the 1880s and 1890s is the act of contemplation, of admiration: the perfect beauty of a mortal woman (“Phryne at the Feast of Poseidon in Eleusin”), a work of art (“The New Statue,” “The Vase Painter,” “The Vase Seller,” “The New Bracelet”), a dance (“Dance Among Daggers,” “Roman Dances,” “Dancing to the Harp”); or the act of listening intently to something: a flute melody (“By a Spring”), or songs from another land (“Song of a Slave Girl”).

For Semiradsky, the ability to feel beauty, to open oneself up to it, was inseparable from an understanding of the fullness of life, happiness, and harmony.

On the one hand, such pictures diverted their audience from the hardships of existence and, on the other, gave meaning to their own lives. Semiradsky’s sun-filled canvases inspired them to find beauty and value in the everyday.

The artist invited his viewer to discover anew an “eternal truth,” that the secret of harmony is simple: peace and repose in the soul, a simple, ethical life in the bosom of nature without an excess of luxury, as described on the website by Dr Tatiana Karpova, an art historian.

‘Rue d’une ville caucasienne’ (Tiflis). This piece by Martiros Saryan is a particularly rare work from the artist’s Parisian period. The painting was exhibited at Saryan’s solo exhibition in Paris in 1928, which marked the culmination of the artist’s stay in the French capital.

After the exhibition, most of the paintings were lost on the way back to Saryan’s native Armenia in a fire on board a ship. “Rue d’une ville caucasienne” (Tiflis) was among the very few works he had left behind in Paris with the hope of selling them. Known until recently only through black-and-white photographs, the rediscovery ... is extremely exciting for collectors and scholars alike.

Rouzan Saryan, granddaughter of the artist and director of the Saryan Museum in Yerevan, hopes to find the funds necessary to acquire this unique work for the museum. The painting is estimated at $330,000–$500,000.

Source: MacDougall’s


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