25 Nov 2012
Ships on a Calm Sea, signed and dated 1886.
Oil on canvas, 74.5 by 124.5 cm.
Provenance: Acquired in St Petersburg in the 1920s.
Thence by descent.
Private collection, Georgia.
Anonymous Sale; Russian Art Evening, Sotheby’s London, 24 November 2008, lot 9.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Private collection, UK.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Lev Lagorio was born and grew up in Feodosia, where Ivan Aivazovsky had been born ten years earlier. His aptitude for art and fondness for the Crimean landscape later led him to Aivazovsky’s studio and Lagorio’s lifelong predilection for depicting seascapes can with certainty be attributed to the influence of Aivazovsky. In his seascapes, Lagorio gave particular emphasis to the rendering of light, aerial perspective and various states of the sea.
Lagorio’s artistic trademark was his ability to imbue clear and accurate depictions of the world around him with a particular atmosphere, lending his works a romantic character. Romanticism, expressed by the peculiar play of light, and realistic, thorough manner in rendering details can be traced back to the artist’s exposure to both the European and Russian artistic schools. On graduating from the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Peterburg in 1850, he travelled to the Caucasus, and then on to Italy and France. The tranquil atmosphere of his works, typical of the Italian school, became conflated with the psychological aspect of the Russian school, giving his works their particular charm.
Ships on a Calm Sea, offered here for auction, originates from one of Lagorio’s most prolific creative periods. It was executed in 1886 when he was enthusiastically working on an Imperial commission of a series of works dedicated to the Russo-Turkish war of 1877–1878, to be exhibited in the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace. However, the subject of this painting belongs to the post-war period. The Russian merchant ship in the centre of the composition, anchored at the entrance to the Bosphorus strait, is being offloaded by Turkish traders. This canal opened for passenger and merchant ships after the war, having earlier served as a key strategic military point.
Ships on a Calm Sea is imbued with silvery light and is Romantic in mood, bearing no resemblance to Lagorio’s military seascapes, with their disquieting air of foreboding. The artist’s palette is restrained yet at the same time expressive and varied in tone. This work can certainly be considered as one of the most successful of Lagorio’s mature period.
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.