Rare Portrait by Philip Maliavin leads Bonhams Russian Art Sale in London

A charming portrait by the Russian artist Philip Maliavin leads Bonhams Russian Art sale in London on Wednesday 5 June. Portrait of a Young Girl in a Pink Dress is estimated at £300,000-500,000.

The son of a peasant, Maliavin (1869-1940) found early artistic inspiration from the itinerant monks who brought Greek Orthodox icons to the village where he grew up. He studied art under Ilya Repin at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, and courted controversy with his bold, colourful depictions of peasant life. Initially rejected by the Academy, these works later brought him great fame in Russia. He developed a parallel career as a portrait painter, and was in great demand in high society, including members of the Imperial Family.

In 1922, Maliavin left Russia and settled in Paris where his fame as a portrait painter grew. During the 1920s and '30s he travelled all over Europe and the USA fulfilling commissions from wealthy and aristocratic families. Stylistic evidence suggests that Portrait of a Young Girl in a Pink Dress was painted in the mid-late 1920s, and although the identity of the sitter is unknown, she is likely to have been a member of a European aristocratic family.

Head of Bonhams Russian Department Daria Khristova said, "Maliavin's formal portraits after he left Russia, such as Portrait of a Young Girl in a Pink Dress are distinguished by a subtle understanding of colour and broad, confident and energetic brushstrokes, complemented by a detailed study of the sitter's face."

Fabergé collection of Caroline, Lady Oppenheimer
The sale also features a delightful group of diminutive lapidary carvings of animals by Fabergé from the collection of Caroline, Lady Oppenheimer. Carl Fabergé was a great collector of Japanese netsuke carvings and his workshop produced many compact hardstone animals that became very popular with the rich and titled. (In 1907 King Edward VII commissioned lapidary portraits of the animals kept on his estate at Sandringham in Norfolk).

Pieces in the sale include:

• A grey agate figure of a mouse set with silver-mounted diamonds, from around 1900. Estimate £40,000-60,000.

• A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox by Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899. The carved nephrite body is set with a diamond mouth, and cabochon ruby eyes in diamond surrounds. Estimate £50,000-60,000.

• An aventurine quartz figure of a kingfisher by Fabergé, workmaster Henrik Wigström, St. Petersburg, 1899-1908. Estimate: £30,000-40,000.

• A chalcedony figure of a playful kitten Fabergé, around 1900. Estimate £10,000-15,000.


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