MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 25-27 November 2019

25 November 2019

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Portrait of Emperor Alexander III


Portrait of Emperor Alexander III .

Oil on canvas, 70 by 56 cm (oval).
15,000–20,000 GBP

Executed c. 1888.

The engraved presentation plaque, written in German and attached to the frame of the work, reads the following: “His Excellency the Minister of State and State Secretary Count, Mr. Herbert von Bismark [sic], in memory of the happily spent days in Peterhof from 19/7 to 24/12 July 1888”.

Provenance: A gift from the Russian Imperial family to Count Herbert von Bismarck, State Secretary (1886– 1890) and Minister of State (1888–1890) of Germany, in July 1888 (inscription on the plaque on the frame).
Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung, Schönhausen, Germany (deaccessioned).
Private collection, UK.

An impressive Portrait of Emperor Alexander III by Nikolai Shilder, presented for auction, boasts a remarkable provenance it was gifted to the German State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State, Count Herbert von Bismarck, on the occasion of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s (1859–1941) state visit to St Petersburg in July 1888. This took place only a few weeks after the Kaiser’s accession to the throne and was intended to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Russia and Germany; ties which were already close due to the multiple family connections between the two ruling dynasties. The Kaiser and his entourage were welcomed to St Petersburg amidst much fanfare on July 19th 1888, where they were greeted by the Tsesarevich, the future Nicholas II. The assembly then proceeded to journey on to Peterhof, where they were entertained lavishly for the next five days.

Count Nikolaus Heinrich Ferdinand Herbert von Bismarck was a highly significant figure within German political and social circles at the time of the Kaiser’s accession. The son of the celebrated German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck — the architect of a unified Germany — the younger Bismarck had been responsible for arranging the state visit to Russia and was thus deeply invested in its success. The gift of the Emperor’s portrait was indicative of the depth of the Imperial favour bestowed on Bismarck, standing as an acknowledgement of the importance attached to the maintenance of good relations with Germany. Portrait of Emperor Alexander III thus serves to commemorate a halcyon time of peace between the two superpowers of Russia and Germany that can be imbued with an added poignancy in anticipation of later events in the 20th century.

Portrait of Emperor Alexander III

Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.