Auctions: Russians invade Russian sales

Russian pictures cover all tastes, but their newfound popularity is also the result of changes in Russia itself.

por plate 88 298 (photo credit: )
por plate 88 298
(photo credit: )
Christie's London sale of Russian Pictures and Russian Works of Art realized GBP21,941,320 ($37,695,186), the highest combined sales total ever achieved for Russian pictures and works of art. Nineteen new artist records were set. Russian pictures cover all tastes, but their newfound popularity is also the result of changes in Russia itself. Some 30 percent of the Christie's buyers were from Russia, indicative of the new wealth there. Another 23% were from the UK, 34% from Europe excluding the UK, 12% from the Americas and 1% from other regions. Some of these bidders were also of Russian origin. Top lot was Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev's Odalisque, 1919, which sold for GBP1,688,000 - eight times its estimate! - and set a new world auction record for the artist. Other world auction records for artists included Konstantin Andreevich Somov's Pierrot and a lady, 1923, which realized GBP1,296,000; Isaak Levitan's Marsh at evening, 1882, which sold for GBP1,240,000 and Robert Falk's Woman with a pink fan, 1922, which realized GBP1,016,000, four times its estimate. In the Works of Art section of the sale, a spectacular pair of monumental two-handled Campana vases realized GBP1,632,000. Made at the Imperial Porcelain Factory, St. Petersburg, circa 1840, during the reign of Nicholas I, they were painted with Italianate landscapes. The top lot among the porcelain produced after the Russian Revolution was a large Soviet propaganda porcelain plate by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, 1921, a delightfully modernist work that sold for GBP142,400. LAST WEEK'S Russian sale at Sotheby's in London realized a record total of GBP22,243,600 ($38,445,838), against a pre-sale estimate of GBP12-GBP16 million, bringing the combined total for this year's Russian sales at Sotheby's worldwide to GBP56,360,381 ($102,511,790). The 400-lot sale attracted over 500 buyers and bidders. Top lot was Still Life with Flowers by Ilya Ivanovich Mashkov - a founding member of the Moscow-based avant-garde movement Bubnovy Valet or "Jack of Diamonds" group - which achieved a record for the artist at auction and is the highest price ever paid for a painting by a Russian artist in a Russian sale. The oil on canvas brought a total of GBP2,136,000, more than seven times its pre-sale high estimate of GBP300,000. The top selling lot in the works of art section was a pair of Imperial porcelain vases, circa 1840 and period of Nicholas I (1825-185), which performed exceptionally well and realized GBP1,520,000 against an estimate of GBP600,000-GBP800,000. Konstantin Alexeevich Korovin's oil on canvas The Picnic brought GBP904,000, three times its estimate, while Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky's Mount Ararat doubled its estimate at GBP870,400. The fabulous modernist portrait The Commissar by Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev, reproduced in this column two weeks ago, reached GBP467,200, more than five times its low estimate of GBP80,000. A LOST autograph manuscript of Ludwig van Beethoven's Grosse Fugue in B flat major in his version for piano four-hands, Op. 134, was sold at Sotheby's in London last week for GBP1,128,000 ($1,949,635). The bidding for the manuscript opened at GBP750,000 and rapidly rose to GBP950,000. Peter Selley, the auctioneer, was about to sell when a telephone bidder offered GBP980,000, but that bid was immediately superseded by Sotheby's music specialist, Dr. Simon Maguire, who was also bidding on the telephone. His bid of GBP1m. was enough to secure the manuscript for his anonymous client. The manuscript was sold on behalf of the Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where it was discovered earlier this year. It had been lost since 1890 and was unknown to Beethoven scholars. THE HALF-LENGTH portrait of Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), painted by Philip Muhe after 1870, brought an expected GBP9,000 at Christie's sale of British art last month. Montefiore was born in Leghorn but taken to Britain as a child. He visited Jerusalem seven times, once after an epic coach trip all the way from London (the coach is still on view at the old flour mill of Yemin Moshe, the Jerusalem quarter established in his name). The keenly humanist Jewish philanthropist and diplomat was the founder of Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the first Jewish housing project built outside the city walls.