London – Kicking off London’s Russian Art Week, on November 26 Christie’s Important Russian Art auction will present 268 lots featuring important paintings that are fresh to the market and valuable works of art. Highlights of the painting section include Ivan Aivazovsky's Venice at sunset, 1873 ($522,800-784,200); Vasilii Shukhaev’s Self-portrait in a grey smock and Portrait of Vera Shukhaeva, the artist’s wife which are offered together as a single lot with an estimate of $392,100-653,500; and an astonishing group of works by Léon Bakst from the Constantinowitz Collection, never before seen at auction. The works of art section is highlighted by a monumental and extremely rare Imperial porcelain vase decorated with an equestrian portrait of Emperor Franz I after Johann Peter Kraft by Nesterov.
The top lot of the sale is Ivan Aivazovsky's (1817–1900) Venice at sunset from 1873 (lot 30, $522,800-784,200. With its history and refined architectural landscapes, Venice captivated Aivazovsky, who first visited the city in the summer of 1840 as a recent alumnus of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg. Renowned for his ability to paint from memory within the comfort of his own studio, which was especially equipped for large-scale canvases, Aivazovsky rarely sought to achieve topographical accuracy of a given place; rather, he aimed to convey its very essence and atmosphere. In Venice at sunset the artist uses familiar Venetian landmarks to serve his compositional needs, as the golden light of the setting sun casts reflections on the still waters of the Adriatic lagoon. Appearing at auction for the first time in 20 years, this painting from the collection of John W. Kluge will be sold to benefit Columbia University.