London auction houses look east later this month with sales of Russian paintings and precious objects, including a selection from the House of Fabergé.
"Russian collectors like to buy in London, where they often have houses," says William MacDougall, director of MacDougall's, where sales will take place on Nov. 25 and Nov. 28. Christie's holds its sale on Nov. 26; Sotheby's on Nov. 26-27; and Bonhams on Nov. 28.
A striking painting at MacDougall's will be Nicholas Roerich's "Sharugön" (1928). Estimated to fetch between £380,000 and £600,000 (€475,000-€750,000), it shows a Tibetan monastery in glowing gold against severe, intense-blue mountains—suggesting, the catalog says, that "spiritual lore transforms even the harshest environment." Ivan Aivazovsky's "View of Venice. San Giorgio Maggiore" (1851), a tranquil painting in blues and pinks by Russia's most famous marine artist, is expected to be sold for £950,000 to £2 million. Konstantin Somov's "Rendezvous" (circa 1918) will add a light touch, as a harlequin and a lady in azure-blue cavort (estimate: £270,000-£400,000). This is a "typical Somov fun piece," says Mr. MacDougall.
At Christie's, Boris Kustodiev's iconic 1923 painting "The Coachman" depicts a jolly Russian in a voluminous, bright-blue winter costume, arms out in a welcoming gesture. "The painting is a celebration of Russian character," says Sarah Mansfield, head of Christie's Russian art department. "The Coachman," which has never appeared before at auction, was part of the 1924 "Russian Art Exhibition" in New York, the first high-profile showing of the country's art after the 1917 revolution. "The exhibition was a roll-call of the most important Russian artists at the time," notes Ms. Mansfield. "The Coachman" was chosen for the exhibition's poster. The painting comes from the collection of Nobel Prize winner Peter Kapitza (1894-1984), a friend of the artist (estimate: £1.5 million-£2 million).
Another major Christie's work will be Nicolai Fechin's coquettish "Portrait of Mademoiselle Podbelskaya" (1912), a favorite Fechin model (estimate: £800,000-£1.2 million). The artist migrated to the U.S. in 1923, and his portraits before this date rarely appear at auction, says Ms. Mansfield.
Sotheby's strikes an erotic note with Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinsky's "Roman Orgy," a panorama of naughty goings-on in ancient times (estimate: £800,000-£1.2 million). A contrasting work will be a silver-gilt and cloisonné-enamel icon of Christ from 1884 that was presented to Czar Alexander III by his elite guard after the Imperial family survived a train crash in 1888 (estimate: £180,000-£250,000).
Leading Bonhams's sale will be four works by members of Peredvizhniki, a group of 19th-century Russian artists who went out into the countryside to depict the lives of everyday people. Part of the same corporate collection, the paintings haven't been seen on the market for 78 years, says Bonhams Russian specialist Sophie Law. Top lot will be Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky's 1885 painting of "Fair (Little Russia)," of busy people on market day (estimate: £1.5 million-£2 million).
Fabergé items will be a major attraction at the sales. At Christie's, a silver drinking vessel featuring a galloping steed and falconer from around 1909 is estimated at £250,000 to £350,000. At Sotheby's, a hard stone inkwell with gold mounts (circa 1899-1903) is expected to fetch between £200,000 and £300,000. "Fabergé is the most stable part of the Russian market," says Ms. Mansfield.