Record breaking Roerich at Bonhams: Most valuable picture ever sold in Russian auction

5 Jun 2013, The Russian Sale

Miracle of Madonna Laboris: sells for £7.9 million at Bonhams

Russian art is back on fighting form at Bonhams with a record breaking Russian sale today, 5th June 2013 totalling £12,384,675 and setting two new world records.

In an overflowing saleroom, the mesmerizing Madonna Laboris by Nikolai Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) sold to a bidder on the telephone for £7.9million, setting a new world record price for the artist and making it the most valuable Russian picture ever to be sold in a Russian art auction.

The lost masterpiece Madonna Laboris was always known to exist but its whereabouts had remained a mystery until it was rediscovered by Bonhams experts in a private collection in the U.S.A.

Madonna Laboris depicts the story from an apocryphal gospel which captured Roerich's artistic imagination. In the transcendental heights above earth is Heaven, at the gate of which stands the Apostle Peter. Peter was disturbed and said to the Lord God: 'All day long I watch the gates of Paradise; I do not let anyone in, yet in the morning there are newcomers in Paradise.' And the Lord said: 'Let us make the rounds at night, Peter.' So they went in the night and they saw the Holy Virgin lowering along the wall her snow-white scarf, up which souls were climbing. Peter took this to heart and wanted to interfere, but the Lord whispered: "Shh... let be..." (Nicholas Roerich, To Womanhood, 1931).

Sophie Hamilton, Director of Russian Art at Bonhams said of the painting, "We were thrilled to announce the re-discovery of the masterpiece Madonna Laboris, a work that we considered to be one of the most important by Nicholas Roerich to appear at auction in the last years. We are delighted with today's result which suitably reflects the exceptional artistic merit of the work."

A second world record was set for a work by the artist, Alexander Volkov (1886-1957) The Child Musicians, which surpassed expectations selling for £2,057,250 to a buyer on the telephone after a lengthy battle with bidders in the saleroom. The painting is from the period which the artist described as his 'return to realism' and is considered to be one of his most important pictures of this period.

A ROMANOV GIFT OF LOVE FROM EMPRESS ALEXANDRA TO NICHOLAS II SELLS FOR £205,250

Another highlight of the sale was a stunning Faberge Imperial Romanov gilt and enamel cigarette case which made £205,250.

The lavender enamel cigarette case, decorated in silver gilt with the heraldic double-headed eagle and entwined vines was a gift from the Czarina Alexandra Fedorovna presented to her husband Czar Nicholas II on the birth of their second daughter in 1897. Inscribed on the inside 'From your loving Alix' and dated 29th May 1897, the gift commemorates three people whose lives were to end violently. The Romanovs had ruled Russia for three centuries, until the Russian Revolution in 1917 when Nicholas II, Alexandra, their children, their physician, and several servants were executed at Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, Russia bringing to an end an historic era.

Giles Pepiatt, Director at Bonhams comments, "The exceptional results realized in today's sale demonstrate the strength of the market and further confirm that Bonhams are achieving the highest prices for the very best examples of Russian art."

Two of the star lots reference royal and religious takes on a mother's love. The Faberge cigarette case and Roerich's painting symbolize gifts of love and life from the Queen of Russia and the Queen of Heaven.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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