MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 27-30 May 2012

27 May 2012

Artist Index / Full Catalogue


* 265. BELLOLI, ANDREI (1822-1881)

Judith, signed.

Oil on canvas, 196.5 by 139 cm.
100,000–120,000 GBP

Executed c. 1872.

Provenance: Collection of an Italian noble family.

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.

Belloli arrived in St Petersburg at the end of the 1850s. A graduate of the Academy of St Luke, he rapidly gained popularity in aristocratic circles as a result of the frescoes and plafonds which he produced for the tsar’s box at the Mariinsky Theatre and for the Church of the Resurrection at Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo. The artist soon found himself inundated with high society commissions and portrait painting gradually became one of the principal genres in his oeuvre.

Year after year Belloli played an active part in the artistic life of the northern Russian capital and in 1861, as a regular participant of academic exhibitions and “in honour of his art and achievements in the arts”, Belloli was awarded the title of academician of portrait painting. In 1869 he even organised a one-man show at the Academy for the benefit of poor students and the widows and orphans of artists.

His artistic mastery and active civic position earned him official recognition from the Russian authorities: In 1870, in connection with his 50th birthday, he was awarded the Order of St Stanislaus, 2nd class, for his many years of contribution to Russian art.

Painted at the peak of his fame, the present work features Belloli’s favourite model of the 1870s – a dark-haired, sensuous, southern European beauty who is easily recognisable from his monumental historical canvasses. We find Judith in Holofernes’ luxurious tent at a moment of heroic resolve. Her arm is extended towards the sword, and her feverish gaze directed towards her enemy who is sleeping in his bed, but the nature of the drapery and her “advantageous” pose are undoubtedly decorative. Belloli successfully displays his virtuoso handling of the nude in an historical canvas. The formidable Vladimir Stasov, one of the most eminent critics of the 19th century, wrote of the artist’s “inimitable portraits portraying pomaded cherubs and perfumed maidens and ladies, which create an effect simply by means of a bare elbow or neck”.

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.