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Important Silver, Objects of Vertu and Russian Works of Art
24 October 2002
NIKOLAI KONSTANTINOVICH RERIKH [ROERICH] (1874-1947)
USD 50,000 - USD 70,000
signed with monogram and dated '1919' (lower left)
oil and tempera on canvas
Painted in 1919 in Finland
Roerich Museum, New York
Louis and Nettie Horch
Charles Posusta, 1978
da Motta Collection
New York, Roerich Museum (1930) n. 9, the painting is incorrectly dated 1918 in the catalogue
Born to an upper middle class Russian family, Roerich displayed an early talent for drawing. Although he wanted to pursue a career as an artist his father, a lawyer and notary did not consider it to be a fit vocation for a responsible member of society. A compromise was reached and in 1893 Nicholas enrolled simultaneously in the Academy of Art and at St. Petersburg University.
The late 1890's saw a blossoming in Russian arts, particularly in St. Petersburg, where the avant-garde was forming groups and alliances, led by the young Sergei Diaghilev, who was a year or two ahead of Roerich at law school, and was one of the first to appreciate his talents as a painter. Roerich designed Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, and it was this success that established him as an exceptionally individual artist.
After leaving university, Roerich met, and later married, Helena, daughter of the architect Shaposhnikov and niece of the composer Mussorgsky. A talented pianist and author of many books, including The Foundations of Buddhism, Helena's collected Letters in two volumes, reveal the wisdom, spiritual insight and simple advice she shared with her many correspondents. Roerich and Helena became firm believers in Theosophy, which holds that spiritual masters of long ago can reappear in dreams, and even be reincarnated, to bring peace to the world.
This fervent desire for world peace led Roerich on a 16,000-mile expedition through Central Asia, to Kullu in the Himalayas, where, in 1928, he founded a research station and developed a philosophy in which art would unite humanity. He became involved in politics and launched the Roerich Peace Pact, which called for the worldwide protection of monuments and cultural treasures during war and peace. In 1929, Nicholas Roerich was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and finally, in 1935, the pact was signed in the presence of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, 'The pact possesses a spiritual significance far greater than the text itself.' The pact is still in force today. Nicholas Roerich died in Kullu on 13 December 1947. His body was cremated and the ashes buried on a slope facing the mountains he loved and portrayed in many of his paintings.
We are grateful to Daniel Entin, director of the Roerich Museum in New York and Gvido Trepsa for providing information on this lot.
RUSSIAN ART EVENING SALE
08 JUNE 2009 | 7:00 PM BST
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION, USA
Estimate 300,000 — 500,000 GBP
LOT SOLD. 702,050 GBP
Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich
signed with monogram and dated 1919 l.l.
oil and tempera on canvas
100.2 by 149cm., 39 1/2 by 58 3/4 in.
Roerich Museum, New York, 1923–1935
Nettie & Louis Horch, USA
Da Motta Collection, New York
Helsinki, Salon Strindberg, Nicholas Roerich Taidenäyttely, opened March 29, 1919
London, The Goupil Gallery, Nicolas Roerich. Spells of Russia, April-July, 1920
Worthing, The Public Art Gallery, Nicolas Roerich. Spells of Russia, July–August, 1920
New York, Kingor Galleries; Boston, Boston Art Club; Buffalo, Albright Art Gallery; Chicago, Art Institute; St Louis, City Art Museum; San Francisco, Museum of Art; Omaha, Fine Arts Society; Kansas, City Art Institute; Cleveland, Museum of Art; Indianapolis, Herron Art Institute; Minnesota State fair; Milwaukee, Art Institute; Detroit, Institute of Art, and more cities. The Nicholas Roerich Exhibition, 1920–1923
New York, Roerich Museum, 1923–1935 (permanent collection)
Salon Strindberg, Nicholas Roerich Taidenäyttely No71, Helsinki, 1919, No. 73 (as "Aarteet")
N.Jarintzov, Nicholas K. Roerich. London: The Studio, 1920, p. 8 (ill.)The Goupil Gallery, Nicolas Roerich. Spells of Russia, 1920. No. 95 The Public Art Gallery, Worthing, Nicolas Roerich. Spells of Russia, 1920. No. 76
C. Brinton, The Nicholas Roerich Exhibition, New York, 1921. No. 9, (ill. plate 12)
F. Grant et al, Roerich, Himalaya, A Monograph, New York: Brentano Publ., 1926. p. 197
Roerich Museum Catalogue, New York: Roerich Museum, 1930. No. 9
The Treasure displays Roerich's fascination with the legends of ancient wanderers who "remembered the call of other remote mountains, and again strove onward, counting nor the days, nor years, nor centuries of their wandering." The treasures they left behind were not simply tangible relics but symbols whose very essence rested in their mysterious and unreachable quality. The secrets of these treasures, which were cultural and spiritual rather than material, had to be kept hidden in order to be preserved, especially in desperate times. Roerich himself was forced to flee to Finland in 1917 at the outbreak of the revolution, and the tragedy and dissolution of his surroundings inspired a nostalgic appreciation of the mystical past. As one critic described it, "Nicholas Roerich is himself an idealist to whom reality is but a suggestion of that which lies beyond." This particular painting, one that reflects typical Karelian scenery, is a more polished culmination of the hundreds of rough sketches he produced in the following two years. The landscape's bold outlines and relatively simple composition reflect a primitiveness that is conceptual and carefully constructed rather than spontaneous, as if every inch of paint is as sacred as the ancient traditions he admired.
We are grateful to Gvido Trepša, Senior Researcher, Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York for providing this note.
*49. ROERICH, NICHOLAS (1874-1947)
The Treasure, signed with a monogram and dated 1919.
Oil and tempera on canvas, 101 by 151 cm.
Provenance: Collection of the Roerich Museum, New York, 1923–1935.
Collection of Nettie and Louis Horch, New York, from 1935.
Acquired from the above by João Da Motta, a Portuguese Representative in the UN, New York, in 1979.
Important Silver, Objects of Vertu and Russian Works of Art, Christie’s New York, 24 October 2002, lot 26.
Private collection, USA.
Russian Art Evening Sale, Sotheby’s London, 8 June 2009, lot 22.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Private collection, Europe.
Exhibited: Nicholas Roerich Taidenäyttely (Nicholas Roerich Art Exhibition), Salon Strindberg, Helsinki, opened 29 March 1919.
Nicolas Roerich. Spells of Russia, The Goupil Gallery, London, April–July 1920.
Nicolas Roerich. Spells of Russia, The Public Art Gallery, Worthing, July–August 1920.
The Nicholas Roerich Exhibition, Kingor Galleries, New York, NY; Boston Art Club, Boston, MA; Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Art Institute, Chicago, Il; St Louis City Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO; Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA; Fine Arts Society, Omaha, NE; Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, IN; Minnesota State Fair, MN; Milwaukee Institute of Art, Milwaukee, WI; Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, MI, and more cities, 1920–1923.
Roerich Museum (permanent collection), New York, 1923–1935.
Literature: N. Roerich. List of Paintings, 1917–1924. Autograph, Nicholas Roerich Museum archive, No. 1 in year 1919.
Exhibition catalogue, Nicholas Roerich Taidenäyttely (Nicholas Roerich Art Exhibition), Helsinki, Salon Strindberg, Konstutstallning No. 71, listed as Aarteet, No. 73.
Exhibition catalogue, Nicolas Roerich. Spells of Russia, London, The Goupil Gallery, 1920, No. 95, listed.
Exhibition catalogue, Nicolas Roerich. Spells of Russia, Worthing, The Public Art Gallery, 1920, No. 76, listed.
N. Jarintzov, Nicholas K. Roerich, London, The Studio, 1920, p. 8, illustrated.
C. Brinton, The Nicholas Roerich Exhibition Catalogue, 1920–1921–1922, New York, Redfield-Kendrick-Odell Company, Inc., 1921, No. 9, listed, pl. , illustrated.
F. Grant et al, Roerich. Himalaya. A Monograph, New York, Brentano’s Publishers, 1926, p. 197, listed.
Roerich Museum Catalogue, New York, 1930, No. 9, p. 11, listed (with incorrect year 1918).
The Treasure displays Roerich’s fascination with legends of ancient wanderers who “remembered to call of other remote mountains, and again strove onward, counting nor the days, nor years, no centuries of their wandering”. The treasures they left behind, which were cultural and spiritual rather than material, were not simply tangible relics but symbols whose very essence rested in their mysterious and unreachable quality. The secrets within them had to be kept hidden in order to be preserved, especially in desperate times. Roerich himself was forced to flee to Finland in 1917 at the outbreak of the revolution, and the tragedy and dissolution of his surroundings inspired a nostalgic appreciation of the mystical past. The Treasure reflects typical Karelian scenery, and depicts a more polished culmination of the hundreds of rough sketches the artist produced in the earlier couple of years. The landscape’s bold outlines and relatively simple composition reflect a primitiveness that is conceptual and carefully constructed rather than spontaneous, as if every inch of paint is as sacred as the ancient traditions he admired.
We are grateful to Gvido Trepša, Senior Researcher at the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York, for catalogue information.
Nikolai Roerich visited Karelia on many occasions: he was captivated by its epic past – the runes of the Kalevala, its ancient heroes and legends. For this reason, when chronic pulmonary illness forced the artist in 1916 to seek a change of climate, he chose North Ladoga. Roerich and his family settled in Finland, which won her independence after the revolution, to see out the cataclysmic events of that historic time. In the summer of 1918, the Roerichs moved from Serdobol (now Sortavala) to the island of Tulolansaari – called simply Tulon by the local people. This is one of the largest islands in Lake Ladoga, between 8 and 9 kilometres to the East of Sortavala. In the central and eastern parts of the island are massifs of the Serdobol granite that was used in the building of St Petersburg.
The wild landscape of the North with its vast lakes delighted Roerich and inspired him. In this region the artist conceived and created around two hundred oil paintings. These included Holy Island, the series entitled Karelia, Cloud Messenger, Missive to Theodore Tyron, Ecstasy, Sons of Heaven, and the Heroicaseries that presaged the path Roerich’s life would follow later, and his spiritual mission. His picture entitled The Treasure was also painted using the studies and numerous sketches he made while living at Tulon.
Roerich’s interest in the North was inseparable from his interest in Russia’s past – her history. It was also at this time that the artist began to study the ancient local churches, laying emphasis on the uniqueness of Finnish mural painting; the fantastic decoration, birds, and wild beasts reminded him of Nordic rock carvings –“there is a sense in them of the time when Christianity laid its hands on a hallowed shamanism”. There was an attraction for Roerich in digging down to the very ancient, deep-lying strata from the time when the spirit of the North was being forged, when people and Nature lived together. His love for the old tales and legends is also reflected in the offered painting The Treasure, whose meaning is in the eternal quest for an ancient magical Knowledge long since associated with the lands of the North.
Legend speaks of folk from the North who went away to live below the earth, carrying with them the mystic knowledge of the creation of the world, whose scattered traces – the greatest spiritual treasures that there are – the earth still bears. From time immemorial the Russian people’s dream of a better life has fixed its gaze on the North. It is in the North, in the opinion of many Russian bibliophiles and visionaries, where that happy and blessed land lies which may be compared to an earthly paradise, and which has been preserved in folk memory under the name of Belovodye, the ideal land of Slav legend that is not an objective, but a spiritual reality, with an image that has garnered all the human wisdom of a thousand years. Roerich looked to the North to seek out the origins of the lore surrounding this enigmatic land. He made a serious study of the northern fables and legends, did academic research, and drew. As a result of his research, the idea emerged that an ancient spiritual tradition exists, forming a single unbroken chain that begins in the North and ends in the East, in Tibet and the Himalayas.
In this chain, there is no sense in which the importance of Karelia to Roerich’s spiritual and artistic quest is outshone by the Himalayas, and the pictures he created in the North are full of equally deep, mystical meaning.
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