5 June 2013 Russian Art Auctions

5 June 2013

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

The Wealthy Merchant

100. PIROSMANI, NIKO (1863-1918)

The Wealthy Merchant, signed.

Oil on oilcloth, 38 by 58 cm.
160,000–250,000 GBP

Provenance: Collection of Valerian Shalikashvili (1874–1919), the Georgian actor, director and playwright.
Thence by descent to Amiran Shalikashvili, the founder of the State Theatre of the Pantomime, Georgia.
Acquired from the above by the previous owner.
Private collection, USA.
Private collection, UK.

The work is accompanied by a letter from Amiran Shalikashvili confirming the provenance.

Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the experts V. Kandelaki and K. Bagratishvili of the State Art Museum of Georgia.

The Wealthy Merchant belongs to Niko Pirosmani’s celebrated series of Georgian portraits. Pirosmani’s strikingly original art became a kind of byword for the revival of primitivism and the folk-art tradition, not only in Georgia but throughout the world.

The figure of the wealthy merchant central to this composition was inspired by Georgian parables and folklore which had originated in the middle ages. Pirosmani regularly addressed themes which are comparable with stories from the Bible and the Gospels and, as such, the inherent quality of his works is almost canonical. He was not so much trying to paint recognisable likenesses of his subjects, as general types: the caretaker, the peasant, the cook, the shepherd and the merchant.

Pirosmani often referenced his own works, providing his favourite characters with new parables. The male figure of The Wealthy Merchant is very like the figure in the famous work The Childless Millionaire and the Poor Woman with Children which is in the collection of the State Art Museum of Georgia.

Having received his artistic training from travelling artists who painted signs and decorated the outsides of inns and street-stalls, Pirosmani intuitively developed his own style which had its roots in rural Georgian folk-art. It was from these teachers that he learnt the main principles of Georgian mural painting, with its characteristic simplification of form and extreme expressivity. He painted quickly, without making preparatory sketches, and usually on black oilcloth which was his preferred material. His contemporaries would recall how he could easily paint a little portrait in half an hour, and large works would only take him a day or two.

Portraying traditional Georgian characters in all their variety, the painting of Pirosmani is striking for its spontaneity, simplicity and, at the same time, its rare artistic originality. In his works, a profound interest in folk culture is seamlessly combined with the developments of European art at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, no more than a tenth of the huge number of paintings he produced remains. The majority of these works are now found in the world’s most important museum collections and very rarely come up at auction. For this reason, The Wealthy Merchant presents a rare opportunity to enrich even the most refined collection.

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.