Later this month Sotheby’s is set to offer works by some of the most pre-eminent creators of Russian art in dedicated online sales of Russian Pictures open for bidding from 26 May – 2 June. You may view the full online catalogue here. 

Drawn from prestigious collections around the world, the Russian Pictures sale features important 19th century paintings, such as The Bay of Naples by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, a view of Moscow by Alexei Savrasov, and a portrait by Konstantin Makovsky’s of his third wife, Maria Alexeevna Makovsky, as well as works on paper and Soviet non-conformist works.

Originally scheduled to take place as a live auction, Russian Pictures, in light of the current global circumstances has been converted online. The start of 2020 has marked an unprecedented year for online sales at Sotheby’s, with over 50 dedicated online auctions being held to date, totaling over $80million. Sotheby’s online sales have continually demonstrated strong sell through rates, such as the sale of works from the collection of Old Masters dealer Rafael Valls that more than tripled the high estimate and saw 98% of the lots finding a buyer, whilst the Contemporary Curated sale, achieved the highest ever total for an online sale staged at Sotheby’s. 

RUSSIAN PAINTINGS SALE (26 May – 2 June) 

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky 

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, “The Bay of Naples”. Estimate £800,000 – 1,200,000

Executed in 1878, The Bay of Naples is a splendid example of Aivazovsky’s talent in conveying the play of light on water. Combining many of the artist’s favourite leitmotifs in one composition, at almost 2 metres wide this impressive canvas is one of the largest by the artist to be offered at auction.

Konstantin Egorovich Makovsky 

Konstantin Egorovich Makovsky, “Portrait of Maria Alexeevna Makovskaya”. Estimate £180,000-250,000

Konstantin Makovsky excelled in women’s portraiture and this work, portraying the artist’s third wife Maria, is a beautiful example of his inimitable style. Makovsky first met Maria Alexeevna Matavtina at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris where he exhibited a selection of paintings. What started as a secret love affair eventually blossomed into the artist’s third marriage, and from the very beginning of their relationship Makovsky painted portraits of Maria. She also modelled for such famous canvases as Romeo and Juliet (1895) now in the collection of the Odessa Fine Arts Museum and Ophelia (1911) which was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2004. 

Alexei Kondratievich Savrasov 

Alexei Kondratievich Savrasov, “View of Moscow”. Estimate £350,000 – 550,000

As a native Muscovite, a pupil and later professor of the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture, Savrasov revisited the subject of the city on multiple occasions in his work. His early compositions such as View of the Kremlin in Inclement Weather (1851, State Tretyakov Gallery) or later works like View of the Moscow Kremlin, Spring (1873, State Russian Museum) are among the finest examples of the Moscow landscape school. Apart from the Kremlin, one can make out the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which would have been a recent addition to the Moscow skyline when Savrasov painted this view of the city. 

Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky 

Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky, “Twilight”. Estimate £60,000-80,000

Konchalovsky spent the summer of 1920 working at the artist’s colony of Abramtsevo, a country estate outside Moscow where artists and writers sought to revive a pure, national style through a focus on traditional folk art. This depiction of the oak trees at dusk was surely the result of Konchalovsky’s plein air studies executed during his time in the colony. Exhibited at his solo exhibitions in Moscow and Paris in 1922 and 1925 respectively the painting is recorded in the exhibition catalogues as well as in the artist’s catalogue raisonné. Part of a group of three works in the sale which belonged to the collection of Savely Sorine and were later inherited by Sorine’s niece, Anne Sorine-Rouanet, Twilight was a given by Konchalovsky to his artist friend as a gift. 

Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich 

Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich, “Sadko’s Chamber”, 1920. Estimate £60,000-80,000

Acquired by the grandfather of the present owner in London shortly after it was painted, this work has been in the same English private collection for a century and its appearance on the market will be of considerable excitement to collectors of the artist’s work and to collectors of Russian ballet and theatre material in general. The design for Sadko relates to an unrealised production of that most Russian of operas by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. 

Eduard Gorokhovsky 

Eduard Gorokhovsky, “Group Portait in an Interior”. Estimate £40,000-60,000

This intimate portrait by Gorokhovsky of a tightly-knit group of friends depicts key figures among the Moscow Non-conformists; from top left to right, Nina Gorokhovskaya, Garik Basmadjian, Ilya Kabakov and Galina Chuikova, and from bottom left to right, Viktor Pivovarov, Viktoriia Mochalova and Ivan Chuikov. 

The portrait is explicitly not painted from life but is a painting of a photographic portrait, thereby adding an additional layer between the viewer and the subject. The distance is not just physical but temporal too, giving the appearance of a hand-coloured black and white print, bleached by sunlight over many years, historicising the sitters.

Natalia Nesterova 

Natalia Nesterova, “Matsesta”. Estimate £12,000 – 18,000

In the first half of the 1970s Natalia Nesterova started experimenting with compositions reinterpreting the official socialist-realist canon: heroic scenes of labour and idyllic scenes of leisure were transformed into surreal phantasmagoria and masquerades by the artist’s ironic brush. Scenes of Crimean, Caucasian and Baltic health resorts would become key subjects of these fantastical compositions. The monumental building in this work is one of the oldest sanatoria in the Matsesta – the largest balneological spa in Russia, located in the wider resort district of Sochi. Completed in 1924 Matsesta sanatorium would become popular among high ranking state figures, including Joseph Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev and Nikita Khrushchev. 

London | +44 (0) 207 293 6000 | Stephanie Cliffe | stephanie.cliffe@sothebys.com | Mitzi Mina | mitzi.mina@sothebys.com