Vereshchagin's $5m '19th century Russian art masterwork' sells in New York

Sotheby's New York auction of Important Russian Art on 1 November 2011 will be led by Vasili Vasilievich Vereshchagin's Pearl Mosque at Delhi.

The work is thought of as being the most accomplished painting from the artist's famed Indian series and his most significant canvas to appear at auction in over a century (estimated at $3 to $5 million).

The monumental work - measuring approximately 13 by 16 feet - is on offer from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), along with seven works in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale the following night.

Pearl Mosque at Delhi will be on view in Sotheby's York Avenue galleries beginning 26 October, alongside the full sale exhibition.

"We are thrilled to offer this true masterwork from the collection of the MFA," commented Sonya Bekkerman, Head of Sotheby's Russian Paintings department in New York.

"Beyond its astonishing size, Pearl Mosque at Delhi represents pure painterly perfection. For an artist made famous by his provocative images of war, the work showcases Vereshchagin's supreme versatility, and underscores his position as one of the leading visual historians of the 19th century.

Vasili Vasilievich Vereshchagin Pearl Mosque at Delhi
Vasili Vasilievich Vereshchagin's Pearl Mosque at Delhi

"Our Important Russian Art auctions are showcases for fresh and rare works with exceptional provenance, and this is a perfect example."

Proceeds from the sale of the eight works on offer this November from the MFA will benefit its acquisition fund for the purchase of Gustave Caillebotte's Man at His Bath (1884), one of the French painter's greatest works.

It will be on view in the Museum's upcoming exhibition, Degas and the Nude (October 9, 2011, through February 5, 2012), co-organised with the Musée d'Orsay.

Vasili Vasilievich Vereshchagin (1842-1904) was unquestionably the most famous of all Russian painters during his lifetime.

After flourishing in his fine arts classes at the Naval Cadet School in Tsarskoe Selo and the Saint Petersburg Academy of the Arts, the artist moved to Paris to study under Orientalist master Jean Léon Gérôme at the esteemed École des Beaux-Arts.

There, Vereshchagin was greatly influenced by Gérôme's Turkish and Egyptian genre paintings, and began to incorporate ethnographic elements of the "exotic" into his own imagery.


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