Russian-art sales in New York, once boisterous affairs spread over some days and hawking everything from Tsarist silver to Soviet spacecraft, have shrunk.
This week, Christie’s International and Sotheby’s (BID) have one auction each, focusing on the decorative arts, that may tally $11.7 million. Russian painting, a category which typically sees the biggest fireworks, is missing for the first time since at least 2006.
Christie’s estimates it will raise $2.9 million to $4.3 million from 176 lots today. Sotheby’s 376 lots are forecast to fetch $5.2 million to $7.4 million tomorrow.
There are many gems among the bronze horsemen, silver cups, porcelain plates and Faberge clocks. Here are the highlights.
Ivan the Terrible, white-bearded and hunched over in a carved wooden chair, solemnly regards his younger sixth wife sleeping on a bed nearby. The scene is enameled on the surface of a 5-inch-long (12.7 centimeter) box. The central image is surrounded by elaborate enameled patterns bursting with orange, purple and blue. The piece has a mark of Feodor Ruckert, a Faberge work master, and is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000.
A rectangular Faberge desk clock is elegant and chic, enameled in translucent lilac color. Its shimmering surface is adorned with entwining silver-gilt wreaths and drooping lily-of- the-valley blossoms. The clock was originally presented to Baron Marochetti, the Italian Ambassador in St. Petersburg between 1886 and 1900. A nearly identical clock was acquired by Queen Elizabeth II, according to Christie’s (CHRS). The estimate: $150,000 to $250,000.
A diamond-set maid-of-honor brooch cypher, consisting of letters M and A beneath the imperial crown, may fetch $70,000 to $90,000. Designed by famed royal jeweler Hahn, it was presented to Countess Olga Alexandrovna Nieroth on Oct. 2, 1904. The letters are the initials of Nicholas II’s mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.
An enamel cigar box made in 1912 depicts Napoleon Bonaparte in an overcoat and white suit standing by the burning walls of Moscow’s Kremlin. Floral patterns frame the central image, inspired by a painting from Vasili Vereshchagin’s “1812” series based on the French emperor’s failed Russian campaign. Estimate: $150,000 to $250,000.
A 4.5-inch gold cigarette case starring a four-carat diamond and red enamel geometrics was once given as a gift to a Cossack general by the “grateful” citizens of the Taganrog district he presided over. It was designed about 1900 by master jeweler Carl Blank and has an estimate range of $110,000 to $130,000.
A Faberge lamp, which had belonged to the late banker Edmond J. Safra and his wife Lily, is forecast to sell for $100,000 to $150,000. The lamp is adorned with silver-winged lions at the base and the baluster stem rises from acanthus leaves, a frequent motif of Corinthian columns.
(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
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