2 December 2009
Cossacks Crossing the River signed and dated 1879
Oil on canvas, 61 by 97.5 cm.
Authenticity has been confirmed by Vladimir Petrov.
The Crimean War theme is significant in the work of Lev Lagorio. He had first visited the Caucasus in 1861, returning with The Darisk Gorge, Elbrus, and The Gut Mountain, which pleased the emperor so much that he awarded the artist the Order of St Anne of the Third Class. Lagorio then accompanied the Grand Prince Mikhail Nikolaevich there in 1863. He participated in military action and became artistic correspondent in the Caucasus in 1877–1878.
Lagorio did not, however, consider himself a military painter. In many of the pictures in his military cycle, primarily landscapes, war did not occupy a central role: Cossacks Crossing the River, In the Caucasus Mountains and The Taking of Lovchi on 22 June 1877. Here, the artist depicts his beloved Caucasian cliffs and valleys, with none of the violence characteristic of the military correspondent genre. The soldiers are not bloodthirsty, rather fulfilling their duty.
Cossacks Crossing the River was a compositional success. Perfecting this motive, Logario created a large canvas in 1879 of a 1874 landscape, The Cossack Patrol (35.2 by 50.5 cm, private collection). Both pictures portray the Russian Army’s daily life. The idyllic mood with elements of The Cossack Patrol, render the 1879 Crossing interesting and dramatic.
So popular were Lagorio’s “Caucasian” works that Alexander III commissioned him in the early 1880s to paint a series of canvases in honour of the Russian-Turkish War for the Winter Palace’s military gallery.
The series’ main pictures, The Burning of the Steamship Konstantin by Three Turkish Steamships in the Bosphorous in June 1877 and Boats of the Steamship Konstantin Attack the Turkish Fleet at Sulin on 29 May 1877 were executed between 1880 and the early 1990s. The Aravart Affair of 6 June 1877, Thirty Days Sitting in Bayazet. Shattering of the Siege on 10 June 1877 and The Liberation of the Garrison of the Bayazet Citadel on 28 June 1877, portray heroic events. However, Lagorio again turned to his favourite subject of “crossing” seen in Mountain Landscape (1886), once more portraying the “peaceful” military daily life of the Cossacks.
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.