Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) 'Corona Mundi,' 1921
Lot 37*
Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich
(Russian, 1874-1947)
'Corona Mundi,' 1921
Sold for £434,500 (US$ 722,894) inc. premium
Auction Details
Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) 'Corona Mundi,' 1921 Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) 'Corona Mundi,' 1921 Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) 'Corona Mundi,' 1921 Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) 'Corona Mundi,' 1921 Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) 'Corona Mundi,' 1921
Lot Details
Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947)
'Corona Mundi,' 1921
signed with artist's monogram (lower right), verso with affixed label on stretcher '172 Corona Mundi / Crown of the World / NR', stretcher bars and interior of the frame inscribed with additional numbers, frame with applied sticker with number '186'
tempera on canvas
143 x 91cm (56 5/16 x 35 13/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    N. Roerich Museum, New York. c. 1921
    Collection of Nettie & Louis Horch, c. 1935
    Acquired from the above by a private American collector, c. 1989
    By descent to the present owner, 1990

    LITERATURE
    Roerich Museum Catalogue, 8th edition, New York: Roerich Museum, 1930, page 17, no 172
    The Architectural Record, New York, 1921, August, cover illustration

    In 1920, the Chicago Art Institute invited Roerich to tour some of his most significant works throughout the United States. 'Corona Mundi,' or 'Crown of the World,' was one of 400 works the artist chose to bring on this travelling exhibition. The painting executed in 1921 is remarkably complex in its symbolic language and in its artistic message.

    Compositionally, the work can be traced back to a series of thirteen paintings commissioned in 1914 by L.S. Livschits for a private chapel in his villa in Nice. Each panel was to depict an allegorical Tree of Life between a pair of male and female saints. It was the only monumental architectural project the artist would undertake in his career.

    The use of symbolism was particularly important for Roerich in this period. Cataclysmic social and political changes coinciding with the outbreak of the First World War fostered Roerich's interest in a new symbolic language, and universal messages began to permeate his works. Turning away from subjects associated with the impermanence of daily life, Roerich instead sought tropes that could transcend the constraints of time and geography. Roerich's work in this time was therefore characterized by his utilization of a universal symbolic language that could embody ideals that spoke to a deep spiritualism, and to which he would return throughout his career. In the words of a critic, 'He populated his world not with participants in transitory dramas and comedies, but with spokesmen for the most steadfast ideas about the truth of life, the millennial struggle of good and evil, the triumphal procession of a bright future for all.'

    'Corona Mundi' was meant to resemble a rich, elaborate tapestry, a sacred cloth unveiling an important message about the unity of the spiritual and the earthly, the eternal and the quotidian. The muted tones, deep olive greens, warm reds, and soft browns, create a balanced colour palette, while the minimalist style brings to focus the allegorical significance of the composition. A female and a male saint stand on either side of the Tree of Life, holding in their hands the crown of the Kingdom of Heaven and a church, respectively, to simultaneously symbolize both the union of the divine and earthly realms, as well as the spiritual offerings of sacrifice and charity to humanity. Within the roots of the tree rests an eagle, with bowed head and closed eyes, symbolic of a fiery baptism, while doves of peace, signifiers of the pure and good, rest peacefully in its branches.

    Nikolai Roerich repeatedly returned to the image of Tree of Life, tracing its significance to early apocalyptic visions and medieval Russian religious teachings. He wrote: 'Before the war there were dreams...Saint Prokopiy spoke: do not abandon the Earth. The Earth is fiery hot, scorched by evil. The heat tests the roots of the Tree of Life, but Good weaves holy nests in its branches up above...Guard the Tree of Life, for it is where Good dwells. The Earth is the source of sorrow, but from sorrow grows joy...' For Roerich, the Tree of Life therefore came to symbolize man himself, who according to Roerich, should constantly be conscious of bringing together the divine and the earthly. As an artist and philosopher, Roerich always sought to find the balance between the present, physical world and the ephemeral, metaphysical one. 'Corona Mundi' therefore embodies the artist's lifelong philosophy to unite the earthly world with the spiritual. Seen in this light, 'Corona Mundi' emerges as Roerich's most significant allegorical work to ever appear on the art market.

    We are grateful to Mr. Gvido Trepša, Senior Researcher at the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York for his assistance in researching the present lot.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
* Import low rate

VAT on imported items at a preferential rate of 5% on Hammer Price and the prevailing rate on Buyer's Premium.

Contacts
  1. Daria Chernenko
    Specialist - Russian Paintings and Works of Art
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 207 468 8338
    FaxFax: +44 20 7447 7434
Similar items