Serov's Portrait of Maria Zetlin sets record $14.5m

A new world record for the work of Russian portrait artist Valentin Serov has been set by his Portrait of Maria Zetlin, the doyenne of Russian emigre life in Paris.

The top lot in Christie's November 24 Important Russian Art auction in London, the painting was estimated at £1.5m-2.5m, but soared to £9.2m ($14.5m) as one of the finest Serov paintings seen on the market in recent years.

Valentin Serov Maria Zetlin
Zetlin was a renowned beauty, painted by many of the artists in Paris at the time

It was sold on behalf of the Ramat Gan Museums in Israel, who received the Zetlin Collection as a donation in the 1950s.

Mikhail Osipovich Zetlin (1882-1945), the subject's husband, was a leading poet, publisher and editor, exiled from Russia to Paris.

The couple shared a flat on avenue Henri Martin that became a centre of the Russian expatriate community, with the likes of Diego Rivera, Leon Bakst, Pablo Picasso and George Braques regularly passing through its doors.

Maria Zetlin (1882-1976) was famed for her beauty and has been painted by several others, including Diego Rivera, with whom she is rumoured to have had an affair.

Serov (1865-1911) was one of the finest portrait artists of his day, with this piece painted just a year before his death.

Another auction record was set for Portrait of Aleksandr Tikhonov by Yuri Annenkov, which made £4m ($6.2m).

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