Christie's Russian Art sale realises $12.9m in London


Christie's confirmed the growing popularity of Russian art with its dedicated sale, which realised in excess of £8.3m in London on May 28.

Leon Bakst The Yellow Sultana
Inspiration for a risqué theatrical costume?

The sale comes just one month after both Christie's and Sotheby's saw great success in New York, with two concurrent Russian auctions realising a combined $8.4m.

A fantastic nude from Léon Bakst provided one of the many highlights of the auction. The work, entitled The Yellow Sultana, was created by Bakst in 1916, the year in which Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russe embarked on its first US tour. Bakst was a prominent member of the famed Sergei Diaghilev circle and created many exotic sets and costumes for the ballet.

The Yellow Sultana, said to be one of Bakst's costume studies, sold as top lot at Christie's, achieving a price of £937,250 ($1.47m) against a high estimate of £450,000 - a 108.2% increase.

Another impressive increase was achieved by Orest Kiprensky's portrait of Prince Mikhail Alexandrovich Galitzine. The 1833 work piece sold 137.5% above its £300,000 high estimate at £713,250 ($1.11m).

A spectactular jewelled snuff box produced by the Hahn company provided the sale's most intriguing lot. The box, which bore the imperial cipher of Emperor Nicholas II, is one of only 59 produced by Hahn during his reign. It sold for £481,250 ($755,563) against an estimate of £150,000-250,000.

In a similar fashion to Christie's April 16 sale, a silver-gilt cloisonné and en plein enamel box sold well. Bearing the mark of Feodor Ruckert, it made for $145,250 ($228,043). Ruckert was a master craftsman who later served as workmaster for the House of Fabergé.

The increases achieved at the auction highlight the growing interest in the Russian art sector. This growth may be attributed to the increasing disposable income experienced by Russia's middle class, who have seen wealth double since the end of Communism in 1991.

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