Svedomsky's 'A Kiss’ Leads Bonhams' Russian Sale
A Kiss, one of the finest works by Russian master Pavel Aleksandrovich Svedomsky (1848 – 1904), lead The Russian Sale on 2nd December at Bonhams New Bond Street.
Estimated at £80,000 – 120,000, the enormous painting, measuring nearly two metres high, epitomizes the European Neoclassical Revival movement and academic style that Svedomsky championed.
Svedomsky was the older half of the Svedomsky brothers, famous for the decade-long project of decorating the Cathedral of St. Vladimir in Kiev. Inspired by the classical beauty of Italy, Svedomsky’s artistic contribution is defined by his interest in the romance of ancient history and his works exude a sense of timelessness. A Kiss depicts a spring scene as familiar to classical Rome as it is to us.
“I’ve never seen a Svedomsky painting of this quality on the market before. It is incredibly rare to find such a stunning example of his work outside a museum,” said Daria Chernenko, Bonhams Russian Art Specialist.
“The figures have a tangible vibrancy and an alluring sensuality – the image presents a kind of adult fairy tale,” she added. “It exhibits the Art of the Salon at its best and demonstrates how faithfully Svedomsky remained true to the purity of academic style, resisting the ideological program of critical realism of his time.”
An examination of the painting under UV light reveals Svedomsky continued to work on the picture between 1902 and 1904. By removing an abundance of tropical plants from the foreground and replacing a salacious grin on the man’s face with a look of tender contemplation, Svedomsky centred the viewer’s attention on the scene’s intimacy, infusing the scene with an atmospheric melancholia.
Also in the sale were a number of imperial items, including a silver-gilt presentation cup and cover made in around 1899 by Khlebnikov.
Estimated at £20,000 – 30,000, the cup was gifted by Nicholas II (1868 – 1918), the last Tsar of Russia, to the Wissotzky Tea Company to mark the firm’s esteem over 50 years. As detailed in its inscription, it is modelled on a 1596 silver-gilt cup in the treasury of Tsar Feodor Ivanovich (1557 – 1598).