2 December 2015
Portrait of Maria Emelianova, signed.
Oil on canvas, 133 by 100 cm (oval).
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the experts A. Kiseleva and I. Geraschenko.
The work will be included in the monograph on the artist being prepared by A. Kuznetsov.
The renowned Russian painter Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky is represented here by the magnificent Portrait of Maria Emelianova. Bogdanov-Belsky emigrated to Latvia from post-revolutionary Russia in 1921 and settled in Riga. His first personal exhibition in the Latvian capital, which opened on 8 December 1921, proved to be very popular and attracted the attention of wealthy patrons of the arts. Businessman Vasily Emelianov, the owner of the largest cinema in Riga, was one of the first clients to approach the artist with a commission, to paint a portrait of his wife. The present lot was the first from a series of four portraits of Maria Emelianova, one of the most beautiful women in Riga, that Bogdanov-Belsky executed in the 1920s and 1930s.
Continuing in the democratic tradition of his teacher, the Itinerant painter Vladimir Makovsky, Bogdanov-Belsky modified the Russian tradition of genre painting by adopting textural discoveries pioneered by the Impressionists, introducing into his painting real freshness and visual immediacy.
At the end of the 1910s and beginning of the 1920s, the artist abandoned the dark, umbrous “basis” so typical of the old Academic school. His canvasses are saturated with pure colour, his brushwork becomes broader and less constrained, and his many nuances of colour enriched by bright, natural light enable him to create a distinctive, uplifting mood.
At this time the artist painted a large number of superbly executed portraits, distinguished by their accurate portrayal of the subjects and penetrating psychological insight. As a rule, his models are of high social standing: the Russian and European intelligentsia, nobility, prominent public servants and members of the artistic community.
This portrait of a young woman belongs to a transitional phase when the artist was moving from an Academic tradition to his first experiments with Impressionism. The commissioned, salon nature of the work does not overshadow its outstanding quality. In it, Bogdanov-Belsky sets the very highest standard in terms of technical skill, fine draughtsmanship, immaculate composition and exceptionally nuanced use of colour. The work evokes the legacy of the World of Art, and is reminiscent of the manner in which Konstantin Somov or Boris Kustodiev portrayed their models, a style underpinned by poetic longing and an air of courtly elegance.
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.