Sale of Photograph Collection of the
Russian Imperial Family Sets World Record
A selection of photographs from the Thormeyer collection recently sold in Geneva
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The Hôtel des Ventes in Geneva was the scene of a historic moment as more than 300 original and unpublished photographs of the last Tsars of Russia were sold for a record price of almost CHF 1.6 million. Out of a total of 28 lots of photographs, 26 lots were sold for more than 100 times the estimated price, an exceptional result for a sale at auction of this type. It was only at the end of a fierce fight between several bidders in the room or over the telephone speaking French, Russian, and English that the vast majority of this collection was sold to a Swiss collector. The final destination of these photographs cannot yet be revealed. The sales closed to thunderous applause. Bernard Piguet , director and chief auctioneer said: “The results of this auction exceed all expectations, but it is commensurate with the rarity of this collection, which was rediscovered after a century, and with the imperial origin, which is of the highest order. It confirms the growing interest of the public in the history of Imperial Russia and in the tragic fate of the Romanovs. These results also underline the importance of Geneva on the auction market.”
The photographs mainly show Tsar Alexander III, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna and their children, Tsar Nicholas II, Grand Dukes Mikhail Alexandrovitch and George Alexandrovitch, Grand Duchesses Xenia Alexandrovna and Olga Alexandrovna. They were recently rediscovered in a barn belonging to a descendant of Monsieur Ferdinand Thormeyer, former tutor to the imperial court. They are of exceptional origin and of exceptional quality.
One of the highlights of the evening was undoubtedly the sale of two albums of 53 and 31 photographs selected and arranged by Ferdinand Thormeyer. They were sold for prices of CHF 205,000 (lot 278) and CHF 170,000 (lot 277) as compared with estimated prices of CHF 10,000-15,000 and CHF 4,000-6,000 respectively. One lot of three photographs of Tsar Nicholas II, together with a letter expressing best wishes signed by his Imperial Highness, was sold for CHF 79,000 (lot 259, est. CHF 300-500). It was probably the delightful humour of this letter written in French which aroused the enthusiasm of the bidders: “Dear M. Thormeyer, wishing you a happy New Year, from the person whom you once referred to as an “ass”.- Nicholas.
The world records achieved at this sale include photographs of Grand Duke Mikhaïl Alexandrovitch that changed hands for CHF 36,000 (23x15 cm) and CHF 26,000 (30x24 cm) respectively, whereas the estimates were for CHF 400-600 and CHF 400- 600. A pair of cufflinks adorned with two photographs of the Grand Duke inlaid with gold and diamonds was sold for CHF 66,000 (lot 276, est. 3,000-5,000). Two watercolours (lots 255 et 256) painted by Olga Alexandrovna Romanov, the sister of Nicholas II, went for CHF 20,000 and CHF 31'000 (estimate: CHF 800-1,200 each), thus setting a world record for a work by the Imperial artist.
NOTE: Prices noted in article are quoted in CHF = Swiss Francs.
Source & Copyright: The Art Daily and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
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