Dmitrii Semenovich Stelletsky (Russian, 1875-1947) 'The Fox Hunt'

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Lot 28
Dmitrii Semenovich Stelletsky
(Russian, 1875-1947)
'The Fox Hunt'

Sold for £ 257,000 (US$ 346,661) inc. premium
Dmitrii Semenovich Stelletsky (Russian, 1875-1947)
'The Fox Hunt'
signed in Cyrillic, dated '1912' an inscribed 'Raksha' (lower left); bearing labels of Stirling Fine Art and the Union of Russian Artists (verso)
tempera on board laid on canvas
69 x 155cm (27 3/16 x 61in).


  • Provenance
    Sir A Kay Muir (according to the label on verso)
    Probably purchased from the above in 1950s
    Private collection, UK
    Thence by descent

    St. Petersburg, 9th Exhibition of the Union of Russian Artists, 1912, no.352, Okhota
    Possibly London, 1912, Grafton Galleries,Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, organised by Roger Fry, listed as no.144,The Fox Hunt
    Scotland, Stirling Fine Art exhibition, 1932, loan from Sir A Kay Muir of Blair Drummond House

    Catalogue of the 9th Exhibition of the Union of Russian Artists, St. Petersburg, 1912, no. 352, p.29
    Possibly Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition catalogue, listed as no.144, The Fox Hunt
    Stirling Fine Art Exhibition catalogue, n.7, p.25

    The original Blair Drummond House was built in 1715. Sir John Kay, a tea merchant from Glasgow, purchased the house and its surrounding land in 1916 and because he had no sons, Kay passed the property to his nephew Sir John Muir, the father of the Blairdrummond Safari park's present owner Jamie Muir. The house was a family home until it was sold to the Camphill Movement, a charity that cares for people with special needs, in 1977.

    At the beginning of 20th century there was a resurgence of interest in resurrecting a medieval Russian epic. The neo-Russian style, directly opposed to the avant garde, permeated the realms of painting, stage design, ballet, opera, architecture, decorative arts and other forms of art.

    Dmitry Stelletsky became one of the main proponents of this trend and this Russian - or Byzantine - style inspired him throughout his artistic life. Encouraged by the idea of reviving Russian art, Stelletsky worked in St. Petersburg from 1903 to 1913, becoming a member of the Union of Russian Artists, and in 1912 a member of the World of Art.

    During his studies and beyond, Dmitry Stelletsky travelled extensively, visiting old Russian cities and monasteries. In 1903, he visited Novgorod and in 1907, the Ferapontov and Yurievsky monasteries, which inspired his leaning towards an Old Russian art. He used tempera in his works in the manner of icon-painters and his subjects were almost solely taken from Russian medieval life and history and occasionally, allegories of the seasons, or the times of day. He continuously repeated his compositions from canvas to canvas and he modified and modernised the medieval rubric to create his own individual style. Stelletsky wrote about his creative process:

    Russian people ought to have their art. Over the years, I have realized that only by studying the artistic legacy of our ancestors and even by imitating it, is it possible and necessary to resurrect its native Russian beauty [Stelletsky Opisanie moey zhizni....]

    In 1911, Count Yuri Olsufyev, a patron and friend of Stelletsky, invited him along with the icon-painter V.A. Komarovsky to work on the frescoes and the iconostasis of the church of St. Sergei Radonezhsky at Kulikovo Field. This cathedral, dedicated to the Battle of Kulikovo, had been built at the beginning of the 20th century with public funds and the initiative for construction had come from the noble family of the Olsufyevs, whose Buitsy estate was nearby, on the Nepryadva River.

    It transpired that – because of Komarovsky - work on the iconostasis took place on the Raksha estate, near the chief town of the uezd Morshansk, Tambov province, which had emerged as one of the cultural centres of Russia, unexpectedly attracting notable personalities. [A. Klimkova, Istoria journal, No. 07/2004]

    The Raksha estate belonged to Komarovsky's grandfather Bezobrazov, who lived in Yalta. Stelletsky was based on the second floor of the manor house where he had a workshop and the painting project took three years, lasting from 1911 to 1914. As well as painting icons, at Raksha, Stelletsky also worked on paintings and sketches for the decoration of the church. Both of the offered lots, The Fox Hunt and The Stag Hunt were completed at Raksha. Executed in tempera with warm, muted tones, the predominance of green, brown and scarlet colours links these paintings to Old Russian murals.
    Between 1912-1913, Stelletsky also painted The Four Times of Day, which hangs in the Tula Regional Art Museum. This subject was repeatedly painted by the artist and a variant-The Dawn and the Dusk is also offered for sale in the present auction.

    This panel ['The Four Times of Day] was painted in the style of Old Russian painting, namely, the Old Russian miniature, which is characterized by static, allegorical figures – symbolic and ethereal representations of the time of the day. The compositions are reminiscent of a subtle intricate pattern, woven from coloured backgrounds and lines. [G. Aksenova, The Art of Stelletskii].

    The formal link between Stelletsky's art and that of the middle ages earned him a place at one of the first major displays of European modernism to be shown in Britain: The Second Post-Impressionism Exhibition in London. Stelletsky contributed six works to Roger Fry's Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in London in 1912. This landmark exhibition constituted the first major display of Picasso and Matisse in Britain and brought together modern French, English, and Russian artists. Fry tasked Stelletsky's friend and former pupil Boris Anrep with organising the Russian section, which included, among others, the works of Goncharova, Larionov and Roerich, and it was one of the first substantial showcases of twentieth-century Russian painting open to the British public. Stelletsky attracted the attention of a number of British reviewers, and out of the ten newspapers and journals which covered the Russian Group, half mentioned his work. A reviewer in The Times referred to his The Stag Hunt as 'spirited and amusing', and the Westminster Gazette noted the 'place of honour' Anrep gave to Stelletsky in the catalogue text. At a time when little was known about modern Russian art in the West, Stelletsky's leading role was thereby unquestionable.

    Three of the offered works, The Stag Hunt, The Fox Hunt and The Dusk and The Dawn were exhibited at the Grafton Galleries and probably later purchased by a Scottish collector.

    The researcher E.I. Kirichenko wrote on Stelletsky: Ancient Russian and folk art were a constant source of admiration and imitation for the artist. He approached this theme in a variety of different artistic forms: sculpture, decorative arts, stage design, mural paintings, book illustrations and by creating a hand-drawn book that included text and illustrations that recreated or revived a manuscript book. Stelletsky discovers ancient tradition and follows it ... with increasing accuracy and literalism. [E. Kirichenko, Russian Style, 1997, p. 432].
    We are grateful to Dr Nicola Kozicharov for her assistance in cataloguing Stelletsky's lots.
Dmitrii Semenovich Stelletsky (Russian, 1875-1947) 'The Fox Hunt'
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