Mount Elbrus signed in Cyrillic and dated '1873' (lower right) oil on canvas 40 x 70cm (15 3/4 x 27 9/16in).
PROVENANCE Possibly acquired directly from the artist in St. Petersburg by the German Vice-Consul, Karl Emil Weber, in the 1870s Thence by descent
Two paintings by Lev Felixovitch Lagorio from an important private European collection
The following two paintings, lots 11 and 12, come from a collection formed by a family with august connections to Russia. The Weber family trace their ties with Russia to 1872 when Karl Emil Weber (born 1843) (later to become German Vice-Consul in St. Petersburg) married Elisabeth Hauff (1851-1920), who was born into a rich merchant family in St. Petersburg. The Hauff trading firm provided a successful base from which the Hauff family flourished, and Elisabeth's father, Gustav Hauff, was appointed Vice-Consul of the Kingdom of Württemberg in St. Petersburg in 1858. The Hauff family moved in social circles which included the Nobel family and, notably, Lev Lagorio's father, the Neapolitan Consul in St. Petersburg.
It is probable that both paintings, each dated 1873, were acquired by Karl Weber from the artist in the 1870s. Weber was a connoisseur of Russian paintings and his collection also included a view of St. Petersburg by Petr Petrovich Vereshchagin, and views of the Russian Empire appealed to his taste.
In 1882, Weber, who had been elected as representative to the German Parliament, moved with Elisabeth to Berlin. Their household and the Russian paintings came with them and hence left Russia before the political upheavals which followed. Weber died in 1898 and the description of his funeral in a contemporary newspaper illustrates the great loss which his death represented to Heidelberg. The two paintings subsequently remained in Germany and in the family.
The offered lots by the renowned Russian landscape artist, Lev Lagorio, belong to his classic period. On returning from an academic tour of Italy and receiving the title of Professor of Landscape Painting in 1860, the artist settled in St. Petersburg. He continued to make several trips to the Caucasus during this time and created a number of landscapes, including sketches, which were exhibited in annual academic exhibitions. Views of Elbrus and the Daryalsky Valley which featured in the 1862 exhibition made a great impression on Alexander II, and from then on the 'Caucasian' theme became a constant in the artist's works.
Imperial admiration prompted numerous commissions from private individuals, and Lagorio's contemporaries were moved to note that most of his paintings 'came straight from the artist's studio to the buyers, never appearing at exhibitions' (F.I. Bulgakov, Nashi Khudozhniki, volume 2, St. Petersburg, 1890, p.7). According to the exhibition catalogue, both solo exhibitions (St. Petersburg, 1893 and Odessa,1894 ) consisted explicitly of paintings from the artist's own collection. The organisers of Lagorio's posthumous exhibition in St. Petersburg in 1906 managed to gather no more than twenty paintings from private collections. Most of the works (more than nine-hundred) in this exhibition came directly from Lagorio's studio and the artist's widow, Elena Lagorio (Lubna - Gercik), provided several paintings from her personal collection.
The redistribution of the majority of private collections in the years after the revolution has resulted in dissolution of provenance information pertaining to many of Lagorio's paintings. This fact, together with the artist's peculiarity of not adding titles to the works themselves, renders the task of identifying known works from descriptions or reproductions of his paintings very difficult and nigh on impossible to make a complete catalogue of his works, even now. The offered lots are an exception to this rule, because, almost from the moment of their completion up until now they have remained in the same family.
Lagorio painted both View of Elbrus and Caucasian landscape on canvases of a standard size and based them on drawings completed during one of the artist's many trips to the south. It is possible that Karl Weber acquired them directly from the artist's studio which was located on Bolshoy Prospekt, Vasilyev Island, or alternatively from A. Beggrov's shop on Nevskiy Prospekt. The stamps on the verso of the frames attest to this: 'The frame manufactory of A.I. Beggrov, Court Supplier of the Majesty'. Bulgakov mentions the fact that Lagorio took commissions from private individuals and from large shops, Beggrov's shop being one of many. Beggrov was selling paintings and engravings, and in addition to the frame manufactory, he also owned the renowned lithographic studio.
The first landscape (lot 11) depicts a broad valley, with a gorge and the towering snowy peak of Mount Elbrus in the distance. This composition is typical of Lagorio's views of Mount Elbrus, the first of which was his 1862 composition (fig.1. V.F. Timm's lithograph, published in the Russian art paper, 1862, № 34).
The mountain here is depicted from the north-west so that its steep slopes are clearly visible. In the offered lot, Elbrus is depicted from the north, from the valley through which the river Malka flows. Later, the artist would work on variations of these views: Cossack journey, 1874 and In the Caucasus. Cossack picket, 1882, (both in private collections). However, unlike Arkhip Kuindji, Lagorio always preferred to enliven his compositions with the inclusion of figures of peasants or armed horsemen fording the river. In the present lot, both motifs are present, embodied in the Cossack sentinel depicted over the hill on the right bank.
In the second landscape (lot 12), there are figures in Cossack uniform and the houses would appear to bear Caucasian attributes, suggesting that the painting depicts the Caucasian coast. Compositionally there is a very similar view of the same bay in Lagorio's oeuvre, but painted from more of a distance. (See fig.3, reproduced in Bulgakov, Nashi Khudozhniki (op. cit.) plate 8, View of Sukhum -Kale in the Caucasus.
It is also noteworthy that there is a watercolour with another view of Sukhum in the collection of N.A. Jaroshenko's Museum-Estate in Kislovodsk, dated 1873, thus confirming that during that particular summer Lagorio was painting in the Caucasus.