26 November 2014
Moonlight over the Dnieper, signed and dated 1858.
Oil on canvas, 64 by 107 cm.
Provenance: Important private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
The present lot has been examined by Gianni Caffiero and Ivan Samarine and has been included in their catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.
Depictions of night sea- and riverscapes formed a significant part of the famous Russian artist Ivan Aivazovsky’s oeuvre and are universally admired. Moonlight over the Dnieper, presented here for auction, is among the most typical and important works of this series.
Aivazovsky’s whole life is inexorably connected with the sea. While he was the official painter of the Naval Headquarters, he even managed to participate in military operations, acquiring the most valuable first-hand experience for rendering his incomparable sea battles and shipwrecks. For him, the sea acquired a more profound, all-encompassing meaning: it was the crucible of nature, and all Aivazovsky’s works are homage to this mighty and formidable element, which he worshipped and the sheer vigour of which he rapturously immortalised on his canvasses.
Aivazovsky’s nocturnal sea- and riverscapes are outstanding: he had no equals in conveying the splendour of water in its calm, peaceful guise, simultaneously emphasising its romantic beauty and power, temporary concealed underneath the dark, dimly lit by the mysterious moon light surface.
Moonlight over the Dnieper is one of the best examples of the artist’s mastery in rendering a calm southern night enveloping his beloved mighty river. Aivazovsky masterfully conveys the effects of moonlight, shimmering through on the clouds and running like a path of light on the water. The work is executed without dramatic, contrasting colour effects and its colour scheme is based on delicate gradations of restrained dark blue and ochre. Alongside motifs, which are familiar from the artist’s other landscapes – such as calm water surface with a boat on the horizon, a windmill, silhouettes of huts on the remote riverbank just visible in the distance, – Moonlight over the Dnieper also contains a genre element: a peaceful scene with two fishermen, watching a boat setting off.
Paintings of this type, which seamlessly integrate Aivazovsky’s knowledge of nature and Romantic idealisation, are typical of his oeuvre of the mid-19th century. Aivazovsky had immortalised this great river on numerous occasions throughout his life, always including elements of Ukrainian landscape and genre scenes. However in his paintings of this beloved view there is never exact repetition. Varying the basic composition and effects of light, Aivazovsky makes the viewer experience each one of them as a new and unique work of art.
The present work is one of the best examples of Aivazovsky’s masterly painting skill at the heyday of his artistic life and undoubtedly is of museum quality.
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.