Here is another exclusive preview of Russian Art Week in London. RA+C went to Christie’s and met with Margo Oganesian and Aleksandra Babenko who walked us through the most important walks in their sales on 3 June 2019.
This season we are very excited to present these wonderful examples of Fabergé clocks, the best you can find on the market at the moment. They do really highlight the quality of Fabergé works and the different enamelling techniques that Fabergé was so famous for.
We have a wonderful blue clock, with golf foiling underneath enamelling, which is a very difficult technique, a pink clock painted on enamel, and a beautiful lime-green clock decorated with gold and diamonds and of very unusual kidney shape. These are very nice clocks and the best on the market.
This season we are thrilled to offer a masterpiece and a really rare find by Petrov-Vodkin, his Still life with lilac. It has essentially all that one would want form a Petrov-Vodkin still life, it has his magnificent and innovative use of spherical perspective. He shows a view from above where he steps away from the traditional Italian linear perspective and challenges the viewer, and the way we look at objects. It also shows his powerful use of pure primary colours – Petrov-Vodkin was known for his series about his three-colours spectrum. And here we have a magnificent blue complemented by red and yellow, and these are the most recognisable of Petrov-Vodkin colours. The first thing to remember would be hisBathing of a red horse, also using this signature palette. Petrov-Vodkin tought his three-colours system in the Academy of Arts of Elizaveta Zvantseva and that’s what we have in this still life.
What is striking is his mastery of optical illusion, when we look at the inkwell and how it is painted, we can see how the artist carefully studied how the light travels through the glass and how it refracts on the objects and this beautiful background.
When we have a closer look at the still life, what catches our eye is this curious inscription in the lower right corner. It actually refer to his time in Koktebel, Crimea and we suspected that there would be another image under the still life. For that reason, we did an infrared photography of the painting. Underneath the still life, we found this interesting composition of Madonna with child. As we know this subject was of particular importance for the artist, he developed it in his early days in St Petersburg. We should bear in mind that the subject of Madonna and Child, in the larger Soviet society, was maybe not the most appealing subject. That may be the reason why the artist decided to rework on the canvas to show this beautiful still life.
This image might seem familiar, and indeed there is another version of the still life in the collection of the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. Our version is the first, it was painted four years earlier. And when we look at it the St Petersburg’s canvas also has this blue background. We know from Petrov-Vodkin’s daughter memoirs that this blue fabric is from his working desk. The magazine is a French bimonthly art publication, called ‘L’Art Vivant’. In 1925 Petrov-Vodkin travelled to France and gave an interview to this magazine about his teaching methods at the Academy of Arts, about his innovations in art. Since then, the artist retained copies of the magazine.
The very last thing to mention is that this painting is a token of the cultural exchanges between Soviet Russia. The painting was given by the Director of the Pushkin Museum, Boris Ternovets, to an Italian art critic and publisher Giovanni Scheiwiller, who brought it to the XVIII Venice Biennale.
We are honoured to offer it on auction for the first time in its history.