MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 27-30 May 2012

27 May 2012

Artist Index / Full Catalogue


* 15. NIVINSKY, IGNATY (1880-1933)

Nude, signed and dated 1915.

Oil on canvas, 103 by 54 cm.
150,000–200,000 GBP

Provenance: Private collection, Europe.

Authenticity certificate from the expert Yu. Rybakova.

Ignaty Nivinsky painted Nude in the mythological style that is characteristic of his work of the 1910s. Similar works, painted at the same time as his monumental wall paintings, reflect the thematic interests of an artist in love with the art of the Italian Renaissance. It is no coincidence that we encounter complex dynamic perspectives similar to those in Nude in several well-known works by Nivinsky; in Atlas, whose powerful sculptural form reminds us of Michelangelo’s slaves, as well as in the different versions of his Saint Sebastian. It seems that, in the complex composition of Nude, the artist was seeking the exact image that he needed at that period for Saint Sebastian. The model’s pose also attests to this, seeming to invite comparison with the celebrated work of Titian, who for Nivinsky was always an indisputable authority, as does the delicate little tree emerging on the right of the picture and symbolically foreshadowing the hero’s martyrdom. In Nude Nivinsky solves the central problem of the figure’s stability: like Titian before him, he uses chiasmus, a technique known and favoured by Renaissance sculptors and painters. Thanks to this positioning of the body with cross-wise movement – with the model’s right shoulder and left leg raised – the dynamic composition acquires a visual stability and the artist, basing his approach on the experience of classical art, succeeds in creating a powerful, heroic image, capacious, collective and symbolic, as was Saint Sebastian for the Renaissance age.

An impression of strong and expressive modelling of volume is created by a deep chiaroscuro and by the very texture of the painting. Nivinsky’s approach is disharmonious and angular. But the expressiveness of the form, the unity of the composition and the play of light, formed by the movement of light and dark areas, do not undermine the crispness of the compositional plan. The striking effect constantly sought by the artist consists here not only in the elegant composition and rhythmic organisation but, mainly, in the wholeness of the mood and the generalisation of the image. It is essentially a study of a nude model, painted at the point of greatest physical stress; but it is at the same time the most finished and the most integrated of all Nivinsky’s portrayals of nude models.

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.