Russian Royal Art Sold

Cup and saucer produced at the Porcelain Factory in St Petersburg
Photo: Christie's

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Watch the video for the whole story about this
historic sale of Russian royal treasures.
Source: Russia Today

A rich and rare selection of Russian art, which once belonged to the royal family, has gone under the hammer in London at one of the world’s oldest auction houses, Christie’s.

Around 550 objects from the 18th and 19th centuries from one of the most renowned Russian art galleries in Paris and one of the biggest in the world, “Galerie Popoff”, were put out to tender.

Aleksandr Popoff started his collection in Paris in the 1920s, buying porcelain and watercolors from Russian émigrés who went through hard times. Christie’s International Head of Russian Art, Alexis de Tiesenhauser, described the Popoff collection as one-of-a-kind.

“If you go through the catalogue, you can spot which families were regulars of Popoff when they were in need of money or wanted to sell something. And it’s why this collection is pretty amazing – they had the most amazing provenance. You have a well-known Russian princely family – the top of the nobility was meeting Popov when they wanted to sell something.”

The collection spans a host of artists, who were commissioned to make fine porcelain for and paint portraits of some of the most important people of the time.

Among the highlights of the collection is a portrait of Aleksandr Pushkin’s wife, Natalia Goncharova, hailed as one of the most beautiful women of her generation. The 19th century piece of art has been valued at a quarter of a million dollars.

However, just because a piece of art or porcelain comes from the Popoff collection, doesn’t automatically make it desirable for all art-dealers. Although some of the top lots have been sold for way over the estimated value, more than half of the porcelain was left on the shelf.

“Here we have to say there were quite a number of unsold lots. Mostly porcelain painted with little flowers, which is a boring subject. But, on the other hand, all historic pieces, those which have Russian historic connections, especially to Catherine the Great, and Prince Orlov, they fetched very high prices,” Russian art expert Aleksandr Zolotkov told RT.

For instance, 205,000 dollars for a single cup and saucer, while another piece of porcelain art with the monogram of the Empress Maria Fedorovna, was one of the top selling pieces.

The other coveted piece which fetched the same price was a cup and saucer dating back to 1762 and the coronation of Catherine the Second. Vladimir Tsarenkov became the lucky new owner of some of the most impressive work.

“That was a unique opportunity to buy those lots because a collection like this comes out to the market once in a lifetime. Russian museums today, unfortunately they don’t have enough funds to buy. Half of the sale was top museum quality.” Although some enthusiasts lament the breaking up of this Russian collection, they say there are very few real porcelain connoisseurs in today’s art world.

Russia Today
14 October, 2009