A Soviet realist painting depicting two female workers raising a red flag over Moscow fetched $1.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York today.
Painted in 1950 by Yuri Pimenov, the optimistic 8.4-foot-tall canvas “First of May Celebration” led the $14.4 million sale of Russian art and Faberge objects.
Pimenov’s canvas, which went to an anonymous buyer bidding by telephone, sold for three times the presale low estimate and set an auction record for the artist.
While 30 percent of Russian art lots failed to find buyers, many of those that sold doubled and tripled their presale estimates, igniting bidding wars.
Aleksey Kravchenko’s canvas “Indian Fairytale,” created in the 1920s and inspired by a trip to India and Sri Lanka, fetched $1.48 million, nearly reaching its presale high estimate. Prices include a buyer’s commission.
A group of red-robed lamas depicted on paper by Alexandre Iacovleff in 1932 sold for $782,500. That set an auction record for the artist, who made frequent expeditions in Asia and Africa.
The sale’s second part included 83 lots of Faberge and Russian enamels from an anonymous private collection; only eight lots failed to find buyers.
The session’s top lot, an ornate Russian drinking vessel known as a “kovsh,” took in $518,500, more than doubling its presale low estimate. Made with gilded silver and enamel, it depicts in tiny detail a wedding feast, including the bride’s crown and dress ornament.
Another kovsh, shaped as a bird with a golden beak and made by Faberge, fetched $242,500, more than four times its $60,000 low estimate.
Half of the buyers were Russian and half were American, said Karen Kettering, Sotheby’s vice president of Russian works of art.