Roerich's Madonna Laboris brings record $12.1m to Bonhams' Russian sale

Nikolai Roerich's Madonna Laboris saw outstanding results at Bonhams' Russian Art sale, held yesterday (June 5) in London.

Nikolai Roerich Madonna Laboris record
Inspired by an apocryphal gospel, the piece sees the Holy Virgin sneaking souls into heaven - a move that God decides to let slide

The masterpiece set two new records, becoming the most valuable work by the artist as well as the most valuable Russian picture ever sold in a Russian art auction. It realised £7.9m ($12.1m).

The formerly lost work had always been known to exist among scholars of Roerich, but its whereabouts had remained a mystery until it was rediscovered in a US private collection and consigned to the sale.

Inspired by an apocryphal gospel, the piece depicts the Holy Virgin lowering her white scarf down the walls of heaven, allowing souls to climb up under the cover of darkness and away from the eyes of the apostle Peter.

Also seeing a new artist record was Alexander Volkov's The Child Musicians, which is considered one of the finest and most important works from the period that Volkov described as his "return to realism". It sold for £2m ($3.1m), following a lengthy bidding war.

Russian Emperor Nicholas II cigarette case
The case was produced by Faberge's workmaster August Holmstrom

Perhaps the most exciting consignment to the sale was a stunning lavender enamel Faberge cigarette case, which was gifted by Empress Alexandra to Tsar Nicholas II on the birth of their second daughter in 1897.

Of the utmost quality, the piece is inscribed on the inside "from your loving Alix". Commemorating three members of the Romanov family who would be killed during the 1917 revolution, the case sold for £205,250 ($315,014).

Paul Fraser Collectibles has all the key results from Russian Art Week covered in our Art & Photography news section. For more of the latest collecting news, features and advice, sign up to our free weekly newsletter.

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