30 November 2016
Mythological Landscape, signed and dated 1928.
Oil on canvas, 168 by 212.5 cm.
Provenance: Fine 19th Century European Paintings and Watercolours, Phillips London, 12 March 1996, lot 125.
Russian Art Evening, Sotheby’s London, 24 November 2008, lot 33.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Private collection, Europe.
The work will be included in the forthcoming Alexander Yakovlev catalogue raisonné being prepared by Caroline Haardt de La Baume.
Alexander Yakovlev’s Mythological Landscape is a good example of a new shift in his style and technique. Already an experienced and acclaimed master, he took many people by surprise at the end of the 1920s, when he decided to alter his artistic image of “recorder and registrar”, by enriching it with a fresh palette and novel brushwork.
These elements feature in Mythological Landscape, painted in 1928 and influenced by Italian landscapes and the frescoes from Pompeii which the artist saw at the Naples National Archaeological Museum. The painting is distinguished by its extremely measured composition and subtle combinations of colour. It is testimony to Yakovlev’s professionalism and his appreciation of the art of the Old Masters, his love of ancient mythology and classical form; as well as to his eagerness to embrace a new painterly style by means of employing a freer, looser brushwork.
The canvas recreates majestic Mediterranean landscape, with a large part of the composition reserved for the skies receding into the skyline. The effect of the vastness of space is emphasised by the introduction of the barely discernible mythical characters, who seem to inhabit the landscape. The three figures in the lower right-hand corner are possibly Venus, Adonis and, hovering over them, Cupid – a recurrent subject in the works of the Old Masters.
Yakovlev’s 1929 one-man exhibitions at the Renaissance gallery in Paris and the Kodak gallery in Brussels included a large number of works with subjects and images from ancient mythology, created in a new, liberated manner. It is entirely possible that Mythological Landscape was also shown at these exhibitions. Regardless of that, the present work has an indisputably high artistic value, due both to an exceptionally fine delineation of a classical subject, and the artist’s masterful execution of broader artistic goals.
We are grateful to Dr Elena Yakovleva, art historian and expert on the artist, 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.