27 Nov 2013 Russian Art Auctions

27 November 2013

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

School in Cairo

* 30. MAKOVSKY, KONSTANTIN (1839-1915)

School in Cairo, signed.

Oil on canvas, 77 by 112 cm.
400,000–600,000 GBP

Provenance: Anonymous sale; Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, 19–23 November 1957, lot 2280.
Private collection, Switzerland.
Anonymous sale; Russian Paintings, Sotheby’s London, 30 November 2010, lot 148.
Acquired at the above sale by the previous owner.
Important private collection, Europe.

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

Exhibited: Possibly, K.E. Makovsky, Obshchestvo pooshchreniya khudozhestv, St Petersburg, 1897, No. 68.

Literature: Possibly, F. Bulgakov, Al’bom russkoi zhivopisi. Kartiny K.E. Makovskogo, St Petersburg, 1892, p. 10, Nos. 130 or 192, listed asShkola.
Possibly, exhibition catalogue, K.E. Makovsky, St Petersburg, Obshchestvo pooshchreniya khudozhestv, 1897, No. 68, listed as Arabskaya shkola.

The work will be included in the forthcoming monograph on Makovsky being prepared by E. Nesterova, to be published at the end of 2013.

The theme of the Orient occupies an important place in Konstantin Makovsky’s oeuvre. In the 1870s the eminent Russian artist was often in North Africa visiting Egypt where he found a new world opened up to him, unfamiliar and entrancing. His impressions from these trips led him to create a whole series of pictures on ethnographic themes – vibrant and decorative in the way they were painted – on which he worked at his studio in Paris. The Orientalist trend was extremely popular in French art at that time, adding exoticism and spice to academic painting, and the talented Makovsky could appreciate the new prospects opening up in the treatment of this kind of subject matter. He became one of many artists in Russia to go down the route of exploring Orientalism in the last third of the 19th century. His most significant work in this vein is The Handing Over of the Sacred Carpet in Cairo, painted for the heir to the throne of Russia, Alexander Alexandrovich (State Russian Museum). Apart from the major canvasses he painted portraying scenes of everyday life and customs in the Orient, he produced a large number of works from life: drawings, sketches, landscape studies, portraits and draft compositions.

School in Cairo is one of the most famous of Konstantin Makovsky’s canvasses depicting scenes of study in a madrassah, inspired by impressions from his travels in North Africa. According to F. Bulgakov’s 1892 account, School in Cairo is one of two works painted by the artist at this time and was in the collection of the renowned Russian industrialist Pavel Demidov, Prince San Donato (listed as No. 192 in Bulgakov). The second (No. 130) was with Goupil et cie in Paris. It is also known that in 1897 at the solo exhibition of Professor K.E. Makovsky at the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, in Petersburg, a painting entitled Arabic School was exhibited (No. 68 in the catalogue). The present lot is one of very few of the artist’s works on this subject to remain in private hands.

In the Drawings Section of the State Russian Museum there is a watercolour dated 1873 entitled Children’s School in Cairo, which may have served as a study for the present lot, and in the Uzbekistan State Museum of the Arts in Tashkent there is an unfinished large-scale canvas (115 by 90 cm) on the same subject.

The painting offered here has a complex compositional structure. The figures are depicted on two levels: in the upper and the lower chamber of the accommodation, in the foreground and in deeper perspective as rooms open to view; the vivid ‘carpet-like’ colours enhance the oriental atmosphere; the evocative poses and facial expressions of the Arab boys are rendered accurately and convincingly. All this testifies not only to Konstantin Makovsky’s mastery as an artist, but also to his great familiarity with the everyday life of an oriental country whose customs and traditions he respected.

We are grateful to Dr Elena Nesterova, art historian and author of a monograph on Konstantin Makovsky for providing additional catalogue information.

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.