Published: May 24, 2011
Sotheby’s auction of Russian art on April 12 brought $16,089,390 in total, in excess of the presale high estimate and the highest result for an auction in New York in this category since April 2008. The Russian paintings on offer were highlighted by Petr Petrovich Vereshchagin’s “View of St Petersburg” from the collection of Mikhail Baryshnikov, which sold for $746,500 above a presale high estimate of $500,000.
The sale was led by Henryk Siemiradzki’s “The Sword Dance,” which achieved $2,098,500 and set a new record for the artist at auction, as well as works by Nicholas Roerich, Boris Grigoriev and Yuri Pimenov.
Russian works of art were led by a rare micromosaic table by Gioacchino Barberi, made for the Russian court, 1830″3, which more than tripled its high estimate in bringing $1,986,500. Competition came down to three determined bidders, who battled for several minutes before the winning bid was cast by an anonymous purchaser over the telephone.
“We are very pleased with the results of this sale, as we continue to see exceptional works perform well,” commented Sonya Bekkerman, head of Sotheby’s Russian paintings department. “This sale will be followed by our auction of important Russian art in London this June and in New York this November, which will focus on bringing more top-quality works to our clients.”
The morning session kicked off with the sale of Vereshchagin’s “View of St Petersburg” from the collection of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Five phone bidders vied for the work †whose proceeds will benefit the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City †before it finally sold over the phone to a German private collector.
Five lots later, Siemiradzki’s work “The Sword Dance” more than doubled its presale high estimate and marked a new record for the artist at auction. On offer from the Slotkowski collection, “The Sword Dance” is one of the Nineteenth Century Polish artist’s most recognizable and accomplished compositions.
Works from the Twentieth Century were led by Nicholas Roerich’s “The Novgorod Market from Sadko,” which sold for $842,500, and Boris Grigoriev’s “Boy in a Sailor Suit,” which achieved $782,500 †both well in excess of their presale high estimates. Soviet Realist works by Yuri Pimenov were highlighted by “The Pianist,” which set a new auction record for a work on paper by the artist in selling for $602,500.
The works of art on offer opened with fierce competition for a group of Soviet porcelain figures from the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory, Leningrad. The group was led by a pair of rare Soviet porcelain figures: “A Young Blacksmith” and a “Young Thresher,” circa 1926 that soared past a high estimate of $18,000 to sell for $188,500. A rare Soviet porcelain figure, “The Apple Seller,” circa 1927, was also sought-after by multiple bidders, driving the final price to $98,500, more than ten times the high estimate of $9,000.
The micromosaic table by Barberi led the afternoon session, achieving more than three times the high estimate and setting a record for any mosaic table at auction. Beyond its artistry and remarkable construction, Sotheby’s intensive research into the history of the table suggests that it was made for Nicholas I, emperor of Russia from 1825 to 1855, or a member of his court.
Other remarkable results for the works of art on offer included a monumental Russian bronze group, “Arabic Horse Games,” which set a new record for Evgeny Lanceray in selling for $482,500. A Fabergé study of cornflower and oats in a rock crystal vase, Workmaster Henrik Wigström, St Petersburg, circa 1910 brought $662,500, nearly nine times the high estimate of $75,000.
In a separate sale conducted a half hour after the conclusion of the Russian art auction, Vostok, Earth’s first spaceship, sold for $2,882,500 to Russian businessman Evgeny Yurchenko, who plans to return the space capsule to Russia.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 212-606-7000 or www.sothebys.com .
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