A celestial, lavender-lit vision of the snow-capped Himalayan mountain, Kanchenjunga (1935-1936) by Nikolai Roerich was the top lot in The Russian Sale at Bonhams, New Bond Street yesterday (27th November). The sale made a sale total of £5.9million.
There was standing room only and bidding from beyond the doors of the spectacular new saleroom. A tense crowd watched as a bidder in the room fended off the telephone bidders to secure Kanchenjunga for £1,314,500.
This work is arguably the artist's most significant depiction of the legendary mountain Kanchenjunga ever to appear on the art market. Until 1852 the five-peak mountain was considered to be the highest point in the world and has long been revered as a sacred place, close to the heavens.
Artist and philosopher Nikolai Roerich, known for his highly spiritual and symbolic work, was to paint the mountain nearly forty times during his career. However, this is the only work which captures the entirety of all five great peaks, and so, is a culmination of a life's work on the artist's favourite subject.
Sophie Law, Director of Bonhams Russian Department commented: "Our masterpieces continue to attract Russian buyers and the strong results are indicative of their considerable buying power".
Earlier this year, Bonhams sold Roerich's Madonna Laboris for the record breaking price of £7.9million which set a new world record price for the artist and made it the most valuable Russian picture ever to be sold in a Russian art auction.
Another highlight was Lady in Lilac, a portrait by Robert Rafailovich Falk of first his wife and a fellow artist, Elizaveta Potechina which achieved £1,202,500. 'Liza' was Falk's favourite model, and though he painted countless portraits of her, she remained always an enigma to him.
Other top lots included Corona Mundi, an allegorical work by Nikolai Roerich depicting a male and female saint standing either side of the 'Tree of Life' which sold for £434,500. Portrait of Olga by Konstantin Makovsky (1839-1915), a sympathetic portrait of the artist's daughter created in anticipation of Olga's sixteenth birthday, realised £242,500.
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