ARTnewsletter Archive

Russian Buyers Snap Up Compatriots’ Art at Paris Sales

Works by Russian artist Mstislav Dobuzhinsky (1875-1957), best known for his theatrical designs, brought €3.25 million ($3.84 million) at Le Roux-Morel, Paris, on Nov. 22-23. The top price was €166,200 ($196,000), paid for a 1946 stage design, Le Ballet Impérial, a gouache on board (estimate: €8,000/10,000), followed by a 1929 Still Life (estimate: €1,500) that

PARIS—Works by Russian artist Mstislav Dobuzhinsky (1875-1957), best known for his theatrical designs, brought €3.25 million ($3.84 million) at Le Roux-Morel, Paris, on Nov. 22-23. The top price was €166,200 ($196,000), paid for a 1946 stage design, Le Ballet Impérial, a gouache on board (estimate: €8,000/10,000), followed by a 1929 Still Life (estimate: €1,500) that fetched €101,800 ($120,000).

The modest estimates reflected the fact that the works were offered without reserves. They came from the estate of the artist’s son Rostislav, who died in Paris in 2000, leaving no heir.

It was the second sale from the estate: The first sale, last June, brought €4.1 million ($4.9 million), and set an auction record for Dobuzhinsky of €195,000 ($234,000) for his Poupées de Bois.

Mstislav Dobuzhinsky fled Russia for Lithuania in 1924, and visited Paris regularly before emigrating to the United States in 1938. He died in New York in 1957 but is buried in France. For unknown reasons, Rostislav Dobuzhinsky never acted on his father’s request to return his artworks to Russia (where Dobuzhinsky was the subject of a centenary retrospective at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery in 1975). Russian buyers acquired more than three- fourths of the lots at both of the estate sales.

Aivazovsky Out Front at Aguttes

At the Aguttes Russian art sale on Oct. 21, Ivan Aivazovsky claimed the top price of €324,900 ($390,000) with his 1893 Tempête sur la Mer Noire (Storm over the Black Sea). This had been acquired by the consignor’s grandfather back in 1926, and fetched £198,400 ($357,000)—nearly 10 percent less—when offered (as “the property of an Armenian family”) at Sotheby’s London as recently as May 2005.

After what Aguttes termed “an incident over payment,” that sale was annulled and the work returned to the vendor, who subsequently decided to reoffer it in Paris.

The sale included seven market-fresh works by Constant Korovine (1861-1939), consigned by the heirs of the artist’s lawyer. A Russian village scene, Gurzuf sous la Neige, fetched the top price of €60,160 ($72,200), in line with the high estimate.

Two other Russian artists were in demand: Philip Maliavin (1869-1940), whose Les Amoureux (estimate: €30,000/40,000) fell for €102,280 ($122,700); and Ivan Choultsé 1877-1939), whose Snowscape flew to €50,540 ($60,650), quadruple the low estimate.

A high €276,800 ($332,200) went for Tamara de Lempicka’s small, oil-on-panel portrayal of an ecstatic nun, L’Adoration (estimate: €30,000/40,000). Another Polish-born artist selling well was Jadwega Matawowska, with Alba Albata at €33,690 ($40,400), double the low estimate.

SIMON HEWITT

  • Issues