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Russian art auctioneers MacDougall's open new International Photography Department
Mikhail Grachev, Moscow by Night.
LONDON.- MacDougall Auctions, one of the three top Auctioneers of Russian art in the world, has announced the opening of a new department of international photography. On 21 May it will have an inaugural sale, The World through Pilgrims’ Eyes, Rare 19th and 20th Century Photography Auction. All works come from two important European collections of photography; most of them were purchased directly from the artists’ estates.

The sale features an extremely rare set of six daguerreotypes by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, one of the most important early European masters and a pioneer of travel photography. Ironically, his works were not exhibited during his lifetime; they became widely known a hundred years after his death. In 2003 a daguerreotype of his was auctioned for almost one million dollars, setting a world record price. His are the earliest surviving photographs of Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Turkey and the daguerreotypes presented for sale at MacDougall’s were made in the 1842–1844 during his trips to Italy and Cairo (Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, Rome. Vatican. La Pigna. Estimate £20,000–30,000).

The sale will also feature some masterpieces of classic Russian photography such as Milk by Alexander Khlebnikov (estimate £1,500– 2,000), Military Exercise by Boris Ignatovich (estimate £2,000–3,000), an album of female portraits by Alexander Rodchenko, featuring and dedicated to his muse Tatiana Maliutina (estimate £15,000–20,000) as well as a series of female nudes by Alexander Grinberg (estimate £1,000–2,000 each).

“Very little is known about Russian photography, hence at the moment that art sector presents excellent investment opportunities”, comments director Catherine MacDougall. “At most people are currently familiar with Russian war photography, with names like Dmitry Baltermans, Evgeny Khaldei and Georgy Zelma, as well as with some avant-garde and constructivist masters such as Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky. This is just the tip of the iceberg though and we have every intention to bring Russian photography to ‘life’”.

Alexander Grinberg (1885–1979) is a typical example of a Russian genius the Western world has heard little of. A classic of the Russian pictorial school, a distinguished master who considered his photography as art, in 1936 he held an exhibition of Female Nudes after which he was accused by the Stalin regime of pornography, arrested and prosecuted. After rehabilitation he exhibited very little and worked as a photographer for the most important Russian monastery St. Sergius Lavra. Four photographs presented now for sale are typical examples of his works from the 1920s–early 1930s.

“One of the most important tasks as we see it now is to introduce collectors and connoisseurs to the array of Russian classic and contemporary photographers”, explained William MacDougall. “That is why we are planning a series of lectures and exhibitions dedicated to the subject. Having specialised in Russian art for over decade now, we would love to share the unique vision of these Russian artists with the world”.

A second photography auction, Classical Russian 19th–21st Century Photography, will take place on 8 June, following MacDougall's Russian art auction. It will feature a diverse collection spanning the history of Russian photography from the 19th century to the present. Among the early photographs, one of the top lots is a collection of images from the 1903 Costume Ball in the Winter Palace, celebrating the 290th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, as well as the extensive collection of the World War II photographs.

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