Valentin Serov's portrait of Russian poet Maria Zetlin is set to see big bids at Christie's Important Russian Art auction on November 24.
The work is among the finest portraits ever created by Serov (1865-1911), a leader in the genre during his time. Valued at £1.5m-2.5m, it is being sold to benefit the Ramat Gan Museums in Israel, to which the Zetlin Collection was donated in the 1950s.
Proceeds from the sale will be used to improve the presentation of the collection and enlarge the exhibition space.
'Portrait of Maria Zetlin (1882-1976) is, without doubt, the most exquisite Serov that I have handled during my career at Christie's," commented Alexis de Tiesenhausen, head of the Russian Art.
"The devastating elegance and poise of the sitter, captured in Serov's unique silvery tones, epitomises the mastery of Russia's preeminent portraitist."
Completed in 1910, the work was commissioned by the Zetlins, who had immigrated to Paris in political exile following their marriage that year.
Mikhail Osipovich Zetlin (1882-1945) was a leading poet, publisher and editor of the era, and the couple's flat on avenue Henri Martin became a centre of the Russian expatriate community, with Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso and George Braques converging.
Maria Zetlin was a renowned beauty and has been painted by the likes of Leon Bakst, Sergei Chekhonin and Diego Rivera, with whom she is rumoured to have had an affair.
The Zetlins fled Paris in 1941, moving to New York. They were only reunited with the art collection following the war, and it remained in their family until 1959, when it was donated to the Municipality of Ramat Gan.
Sotheby's has also announced the highlights of its Russian Works of Art sale on November 25, with a silver triptych presented to Prince Andrei Alexandrovich expected to lead.
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