Leading Christie's Russian sale in London is a painting by Russian painter Ivan Aivazovskii.
By MEIR RONNEN
Leading Christie's Russian sale in London on November 30 is a superb painting by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovskii (1817-1900) entitled, A Fishing boat with a Russian merchant brig at anchor ( 800,000- 1,200,000). It has never before been seen at an auction. This artist is renown for his atmospheric seascapes, which combine a delicate tonal harmony with an almost imaginary quality that can be described as sentimental and even treacly.
The sea held a life-long fascination for Aivazovskii. Here, in the hazy early morning light, set against a mountainous backdrop and a calm sea, a fisherman accompanied by his family goes about his daily grind, while close by an imposing Russian merchant brig sets its sails to dry.
Another highlight of the sale is a group of 11 works by Maria Iakunchikova (1870-1902). Referred to by Sergei Diaghilev as the "dear poet of Russian forests," Iakunchikova, once placed in the company of Levitan and Korovin, is a rare presence in the Russian art market. Her death at the age of 32 from tuberculosis cut short a remarkable career.
This is the first time that a collection of her paintings has appeared at an auction. Iakunchikova's creativity and importance to Russian art lay in her ability to absorb a wide range of influences ranging from Impressionism to Russian folk art. Among her works on offer is View from a Window of the Old House, Vvedenskoe ( 150,000- 200,000), a variant of a work currently displayed at Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery.
After studying in Italy and Spain in 1914-15, neo-classicist Aleksandr Yakovlev had the indelible mark of the Italian Renaissance (1887-1938). Yakovlev settled in Paris in 1920, and his reputation as an ethnographical draughtsman was established when he became the official artist of the Citro n Central Africa Expedition, "La Croisi re Noire", in 1925, recording scenes, tribesmen and various rituals along the journey. Also on auction is his rare oil painting from that trip, View of Zinder, the old capital of Niger, which has an estimated value of 80,000- 120,000.
A large presentation triptych icon on offer was once in the possession of Tsarevich Alexis, son of Tsar Nicholas II, and is engraved on the back as being a gift in 1904 from the Russian city of Uralsk. The silver gilt and enamel icon depicts St. Alexis, the Metropolitan of All Russia in the central panel, flanked by the Guardian Archangel on the left and St. Seraphim of Sarov on the right (a favorite saint of the imperial family). On the clasp is the coat of arms of the city of Uralsk. This icon was featured in the Faberg show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1996 ( 220,000- 280,000).
Also in this sale are 18 top quality avant-garde plates from The Howard Gilman Collection. One is an early piece produced during the first years of Communism by Mikhail M. Adamovich, which has a portrait of Lenin and the slogan "He Who Does Not Work Does Not Eat" ( 4,500- 6,500) while Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich's plate from the 1920s is purely abstract ( 70,000- 90,000).