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Град обречённый

Н.К.Рерих. Град обречённый. 1914

Ссылка на изображение: http://gallery.facets.ru/pic.php?id=1572&size=4

Атрибуты картины

Название Град обречённый
Год 1914
Материалы, размеры Картон, темпера. 51 х 75.6 см.
Источник Каталоги аукционов Sotheby's http://www.sothebys.com/
Примечание Загружено 2 изображения. Картина продана 28.11.2011 на аукционе Sotheby's London. Картина участвовала 26.11.2014 в аукционе MacDougall's London.
См. эскиз к Картине

PROVENANCE и др. информация

Провенанс: Подарено художником Максиму Горькому, 1915.

Приобретено А.Хаманн, Рига, до 2 января 1936.

Important Russian Art, Sotheby’s London, 28 November 2011, lot 7.

Приобретено нынешним владельцем на вышеупомянутом аукционе.

Частная коллекция, Европа.

MacDougall's 26.11.2014:



The Doomed City

800,000-1,200,000 GBP

*46. ROERICH, NICHOLAS (1874-1947)

The Doomed City, signed with the artist's monogram and dated 1914, further signed twice, once with initials, titled, inscribed in Cyrillic "1.000 rub./Dlya Moskvy/V Moskvu na Bel'giiskuyu vystavku" and numbered "229" on the reverse.

Tempera on cardboard, 51 by 75.5 cm.

800,000-1,200,000 GBP

Provenance: A present from the artist to Maxim Gorky, 1915.

Acquired by A. Hamann, Riga, before 2 January 1936.

Important Russian Art, Sotheby’s London, 28 November 2011, lot 7.

Acquired at the above by the present owner.

Private collection, Europe.

Exhibited: World of Art Exhibition, Petrograd, 28 February–29 March 1915. Nikolaja Reriha Muzejs (Nicholas Roerich Museum), Riga, October–November 1937.

Literature: Lukomor’e, 25 December 1914, No. 32, p.16, illustrated.

Exhibition catalogue, World of Art Exhibition, Petrograd, 1915, No. 229, listed.

A. Gidoni, “Tvorchesky put’ Rerikha”, Apollon, 1915, No. 4–5, pp. 1–34, mentioned in the text, illustrated between pp. 26 and 27.

Yu. Baltrushaitis et al, Roerich, Petrograd, Svobodnoe Iskusstvo, 1916, p. 167, illustrated and listed; p. 224, listed.

S. Ernst, N.K. Roerich, Petrograd, Obshchina Svyatoi Evgenii, 1918, p. 102, mentioned in the text, p. 125, listed, pl. [28], illustrated.

A. Yaremenko, Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich. His Life and Creations During the Past Forty Years, 1889?1929, New York, Central Book Trading Co., 1931, pl. 29, illustrated.

N. Roerich, Listy dnevnika, vol. 2, Moscow, International Centre of the Roerichs, 2000, p. 34, mentioned in the text.

Nicholas Roerich. Paintings from the Collection of the Latvian State Museum of Art, Riga, Uguns, 1999, p. xxix.

V. Knyazeva et al, Rerikh. Prorochestva, Samara, Agni, 2004, mentioned in the text.

Nicholas Roerich’s masterpiece The Doomed City is highly versatile in its symbolism, and managed to reflect the state of mind of modern society at the time so well, that every viewer who saw the painting could not help but respond to what is unfolding before him.

It is not possible to interpret the artist’s intended meaning outside of the social context of the time. At that time, Roerich himself experienced a major existential crisis, connected with the breakdown of all that represented deep philosophical and ideological values for him. The geopolitical crises and the concomitant collapse of cultural and humanistic foundations certainly deeply affected Roerich as an artist. Thus, the work offered here for auction, despite its metaphorical associations, is, first and foremost, an emotionally saturated and deeply-felt allegory for the power of human spirit and the inviolability of true values and ideals.

This magnificent work, with its impressive imagery and colours, has left an indelible mark not only in the cultural life of its contemporaneous society, but it continues to be reborn within historical, political and spiritual contexts, as well as continuing to delight and inspire awe. Over the years, it can be seen as acquiring a new, life-affirming meaning; conveying the deeply entrenched, universal belief that, no matter how strong or evil the enemy, goodness will triumph and defeat the “great serpent”, that menacing embodiment of the encroaching forces of darkness. Moreover, though the imagery of the Heavenly City, the idea of salvation through cultural and spiritual values is also emphasised.

This idea is further developed in Roerich’s next series, Sancta, represented here by the work And We Continue Fishing. Its main protagonists are monks who symbolise the primacy of the spiritual, while the rising sun personifies faith in the life-affirming power of Christianity. This work is in so many ways truly unique and can take one of the most honourable places in any respectable collection.

The Doomed City is one of several works painted by Nicholas Roerich shortly before the start of World War I. They have a strong current of foreboding, both in the dark colour palette and unsettling symbolic elements. When war broke out in July of 1914, the public and critics alike declared these works “prophetic.” Roerich himself described the impetus behind these works in his blank verse poem Dream:

“Before the war came dreams: We are crossing a field. Dark clouds over a hill. A Storm. There, piercing the cloud, like a flash of lighting hitting the ground, stands a fiery serpent. With many heads. Or: we are crossing a grey plain. A dark hill towers above. Another look, and it’s not a hill, but a serpent like a grey pillar twirling.

… Then, there were omens. Ignored. Dismissed. Overlooked. Trampled over by the masses. And, alas, awoke the serpent. Arose the enemy of mankind. Trying to conquer the world with malignant power. Destroy cities. Desecrate temples. Burn people and homes. Arose to meet his death.” (Yu. Baltrushaitis et al, Roerich, Petrograd, Svobodnoe iskusstvo, 1916, p. 191.) The vision of the serpent – Satan, the enemy of mankind – found its expression in the paintingsThe Doomed City, The Dead City, and Cry of the Serpent. The creature takes over the scene, encircling the city like a river of hot magma. Its skin is jewel-like amid the dreary grey tones of the landscape, holding the city, and our attention, hostage. But the blood red that glows under specks of blue foreshadows the blood of war, and the familiar outlines of a metropolis becomes a metaphor for the whole of Europe. As a contemporary critic noted: “The Doomed City is especially beautiful, both in concept and in execution – encircled by an enormous fiery serpent, under the spell of its evil, piercing eyes.” The tension between beauty and an undercurrent of violence is what makes this painting especially powerful.

The first owner of the painting was the famous Russian writer Maxim Gorky, who selected it himself. In one of his diary leaves, Roerich described the occasion: “He was determined to have a painting by me. From those that I had at the time, he chose not some realistic landscape but one of the so-called 'pre-war’ series – The Doomed City, which was fitting for his poet’s nature.” (N. Roerich, Listy dnevnika, vol.2, Moscow, International Centre of the Roerichs, 2000, p. 34.) Gorky parted with it most likely during his stay in Italy during the 1920s. The next record of the painting is from a 1937 exhibition in the Roerich Museum in Riga, Latvia, for which it was lent by its new owner, Mr. Hamann. More recently, it surfaced in the auction world.

We are grateful to Gvido Trepša, Senior Researcher at the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York, for catalogue information.



28 NOVEMBER 2011 | 7:00 PM GMT




Estimate 400,000 — 600,000 GBP

LOT SOLD. 657,250 GBP


Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich

1874 - 1947


signed with artist's monogram and dated 1914 l.l.; further titled and inscribed in Cyrillic and numbered 229 on reverse

tempera on board

51 by 75.6cm, 20 by 29 3/4 in.


A present from the artist to Maxim Gorky, 1915

Bought by Arthur F. Hamann in Riga before 2 January 1936 for 1500 Ls


Petrograd, Mir Iskusstva, 28 February - 29 March 1915, cat.no.229

Riga, The Nikolai Roerich Museum, October - November 1937


Lukomore magazine, 24 December 1914, no.32

Mir iskusstva exhibition catalogue, 1915, no.229

A.Gidoni Tvorchesky put' Rerikha, Apollon, 1915, no.45. p.1-39, illustrated

Yu.Baltrushaitis et al, Rerikh, Petrograd: Svobodnoe iskusstvo, 1916, p.167 illustrated and listed as 'Collection A.M.Gorky', p.224 listed

S.Ernst, N.K.Rerikh, Petrograd: Obshchina Sv.Evgenii, 1918, pp.101-102,125, listed and illustrated

A. Yaremenko, Nicholai Konstantinovich Roerich, His Life and Creations During the Past Forty Years, New York, Central Book Trading Co., 1931, pl.29

N.Roerich, Zazhigaite serdtsa, Moscow: Molodaya gvardiya, 1990, 3rd edition, ch.4 Gorky, p.100

Nicholas Roerich: Paintings from the collection of the Latvian State Museum of Art, Riga: Uguns, 1999, p.xxvii-xxxii

V.Knyazeva et al, Rerihk: Prorochestva, Samara: Agni, 2004

Y. Matochkin, Nicholas Roerich, Volume I, Samara, 2008, p.201 illustrated


The Doomed City belongs to Roerich's so-called 'pre-war' or 'prophetic' series, an extraordinary and dramatic body of work which pre-figured the outbreak of the First World War. Five other paintings from the series were exhibited alongside the present work at the 1915 Mir iskusstva exhibition in Petrograd: Conflagration, Cry of the Serpent, Crowns, Procopius the Righteous Praying, Driving the Clouds away from Veliky Ustyug, Procopius the Righteous Prays for the Unknown Travellers (figs. 2 and 3). When Maxim Gorky visited the exhibition on the 18th February 1915, he was deeply impressed by the series and famously praised Roerich as a 'great intuitivist of modern times'. Of all Roerich's works however, the painting he most craved was The Doomed City, which Roerich subsequently presented to him (see V.Knyazeva et al., Roerich: Prorochestva, Samara: Agni, 2004). 'He wanted my painting very much indeed,' recalled Roerich, 'From the selection then in my possession, he didn't ask for a realistic landscape but a painting from the 'pre-war series', The Doomed City – the canvas which would meet the demands of a poet. Clearly the author of The Stormy Petrel couldn't help but be a poet first and foremost...' (see N.Roerich, Leafs of a Diary and N.Roerich, Zazhigaete Serdtse, Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1990, 3rd ed., ch. 4, Gorky, entry for 12 July 1936).

Alexander Ginodi was among the earliest critics to draw attention to Roerich's 'pre-war series' in his 1915 article in Apollon: 'When one recollects all these paintings which Roerich has produced over the last two years, some of which were painted only a few months before the outbreak of World War One, for example The Conflagration, The Doomed City or The Messenger, one experiences a subconscious urge to attribute much in these works to the artist's intuitive premonitions. Because the principal element in these paintings is fire, and one senses that the artist, (...) roaming through a world of creative visions suddenly felt a kind of shockwave. As though in an ancient tale, he pressed his ear to the ground, listened, and heard noise, shouting and commotion in one place, and a great silence elsewhere... These sensations (...) are revealing, for this is our mood: because we believe in the cry of the snake, we carry the doomed city in our soul and with all our hearts hear the prayer of Procopius the Righteous praying, driving the clouds away from Veliky Ustyug' (A.Gidoni, Tvorchesky Put' Rerikha, Apollon, 1915, no.4-5, p.1-39).

But perhaps the most resonant lines written about The Doomed City are by the poet Alexei Remizov (1877-1957) who was inspired by Roerich's apocalyptic series to include the following poem in his cycle of works, Zherlitsa Druzhinnaya (1916), dedicated to Roerich,

The city stood enclosed, wrapped up by the serpent, doomed,

And yet for a long time, nobody knew it nor sensed the evil –

The people ate, drank, married,

And when the hour came to sound the alarm

There was nowhere left to flee!

I know for our sins...

I know many untruths, many sins cry at the sky,

We need to repent of our sins, to atone for our sins.

And you must bless me at the final hour for the sake of the purity of our motherland,

To gently take my doomed share."

In the first editions of early literature on the artist, The Doomed City is listed as belonging to Maxim Gorky (see Yaremenko, 1933). How and when Gorky parted with the painting is unknown. More recent monographs on Roerich list the painting as 'whereabouts unknown'.

The present lot is mentioned in a little-known 1968 article on Gorky's various collecting interests and habit of lending to museums, written in 1968 by an archivist at the Gorky house-museum in Moscow: 'The fate is unknown of two very interesting works belonging to Gorky – a drawing by Ilya Repin for Zazubrina and a picture by Nikolai Roerich, The Doomed City.' (V.Chernukhin, 'Gorky - kollektsioner', Sovetsky kollektioner, no.6, Moscow: Svyaz, 1968, p.5-30).

The theme of the present work appears in two other paintings by Roerich, but neither are plausible candidates for the work that caught Gorky's eye. The first of these was painted in 1914 in watercolour and gouache: The Castle. The Doomed City (fig 4), 24.5 by 43.5cm. This work on paper is in The Omsk Vrubel Museum of Fine Arts, acquired from The State Russian Museum in 1927 and previously in the collection of Zh.L.Rumanova, Petrograd. Not only would the whereabouts of this sketch have been known to Chernukhin in 1968, but as a composition it does not match the drama and poetry of the present work which so clearly appealed to Gorky. The second work is known as The Dead City and is in the Nikolai Roerich Museum in New York, oil on cardboard, 43 by 66cm (fig 5), acquired in 1965, but since this work was painted in 1918 it was obviously not in the 1915 Mir Iskusstva exhibition.

Although there was no official listing of Gorky's collection, The Gorky Museum's 40 year commemorative edition refers to The Doomed City as a work 'which the writer later parted with' (V dome Gorkogo na Maloi Nikitsky, 2005, p.207), It is erroneously described as a drawing, perhaps because the work was tempera on board rather than oil on canvas.

The painting had in fact been exhibited in Latvia in the interim, though Gorky's Moscow-based biographer was understandably unaware at the time. On 10 October 1937, Roerich's birthday, The Nicholas Roerich Museum in Riga opened its inaugural exhibition. A series of articles were published on the paintings in the exhibition and the new museum, which note that The Doomed City, or as it was known in Latvian, Aplenktā pilsētā, was leant to the museum for the exhibition by the collector A.Hamanis (see V.Tretyakov, 'Ob akademike N.Rerikhe', Dlya Vas, 17 October 1937, no.42; J.Madernieks,'Nikolaja Rēriha muzejs Rīga', Jaunakas Zinas, 30 October 1937, no.247, p.15; 'Vystavka kartin Rerikha', Universitas, 15 November 1937).

The society was officially registered as the The Society of Friends of the Roerich Museum in Latvia, but was more commonly referred to as The Roerich Society in Latvia. The society's activites were wide-ranging and they maintained an active correspondence with Nikolai and Elena Roerich. After the death of the society's first president, F.Lukin (1875-1934), the presidency was awarded to the famous Latvian poet and philosopher, Richard Rudzitis (1898-1960). The society was dissolved in the autumn of 1940, after the Soviet take-over of Latvia. A further clue as to the provenance of the present lot can be found in a letter of 2 January 1936 from Rudzitis to Elena Roerich:

"Dear Elena Ivanovna, I have already informed Vladimir Anatolevich, that two works by N.K. are up for sale in Riga – 'Saints Boris and Gleb' and 'Stone-Age Men', and I have sent V.A. photos. Some other man turned up today and offered two well-known paintings by N.K. for sale, 'Procopius the Righteous drives away Clouds from Veliky Ustyug' and 'The Stone Age' – a large oil... This same gentleman has also just sold a third painting by N.K. to someone in Riga, 'The Doomed City', for 1500 lats. I enclose photographs... R.Rudzutis" (Letters from Mountains: The Correspondence of Elena and Nikolai Roerich with Richard Rudzitis, Minsk: Loatats, 2000, vol.I, p.132).

The painting is mentioned again in a letter from Rudzitis to the Roerichs from 12-15 October 1937 in which he describes the opening of the museum and the exhibition: "The lawyer Hamann has loaned us 'The Doomed City' for one month; Elkan has leant us 'St Procopius drives the clouds..' (idem, p.508).

FIG. 1

Maxim Gorky photographed in Paris circa 1912

FIG. 2

Cry of the Serpent, 1914, Lithuanian Art Museum, Vilnius

FIG. 3

Crowns, 1914, Kiev Museum of Russian Art

FIG. 4

The Castle. The Doomed City 1914, Omsk M.A. Vrubel Regional Museum of Fine Arts

FIG. 5

Dead City, 1918, Museum of N. Roerich, New York

Грани Агни Йоги 1960, 31 октября

«1960 г. Окт. 31. ... Картина «Город обреченный» производит особенно глубокое впечатление. На фоне грозного огненно-красного неба стоит огромный темный замок, стоит, видимо, века. В его окнах отражаются красные отблески зарева. Кровавое небо – символ грядущей войны, а красные и алые краски – символ идущей за ней революции. На фоне этих красок обреченность старого замка, старого мира. Потому-то неизбежность, какая-то неумолимость хода исторических событий чувствуется в этих тонах, словно предвидел художник и неизбежность кровавой войны, и неизбежность последовавшей за ней революции, когда красные знамена были подняты во имя освобождения народов от оков старого мира. И то, что старый мир бесповоротно осужден законом исторической справедливости и законом общественного развития, явствует из самого названия картины «Город обреченный». Ибо мир старый действительно обречен, и как бы ни старались защитники войн, и насилий, и колониального рабства, и все противники Нашей Страны его отстоять на всех ассамблеях мира, он обречен, и уйдет, и уступит дорогу Новому Миру свободы и счастья, Миру без войн, Миру, освобожденному от всех видов рабства, Миру, который строится и утверждается Нашей Великой Страной и Теми, Кто ведет ее и за нею весь мир и все народы земли в это сияющее светлое будущее.»

С. ЭРНСТ Н.К.Рерих/ Держава Рериха. Сост. Д. Н. Попов. — М.: Изобразительное искусство, 1993. — 444 с.: ил. — Резюме англ.

Мотив битвы, обреченности и гибели с этих пор звучит в творении мастера — и в «Коронах» 1914 года (картине удивительной по прозрачной гамме густых бирюзово-лиловых тонов), где клянутся на мечах три короля, и в «Граде обреченном», «Зареве» и «Делах человеческих», отданных одной и той же теме «Града», сначала окруженного великим змием, затем пронизанного кровавым клубящимся заревом и, наконец, лежащего во прахе — рушится град, «чтобы новая радость возникла»...

Р. РУДЗИТИС Космические струны в творчестве Николая Рериха / Рихард Рудзитис. Минск: Звезды Гор, 2009. — 170 с.

...Яркое воображение и предчувствие художника иногда выражаются в его творчестве как символические пророческие картины будущего. В 1912—1914 гг. он создал так называемый пророческий цикл картин, предрекающий страшную катастрофу человечества — первую мировую войну.

...«Град обреченный» — громадная огненная змея сковала своими страшными кольцами гордый, могучий город.

В.П.КНЯЗЕВА. Предвоенная серия Н.К.Рериха. (Князева В.П. Кузнецова И.Н. Маточкин Е.П. Рерих: Пророчества., г.Самара : 000 «Издательский дом «Агни», - 2004г. )

"...В 1915 году на выставке «Мира искусства» в Петрограде экспонировались шесть работ серии: «Зарево», «Крик змия», «Град обречённый», «Короны», «Прокопий Праведный за неведомых плавающих молится», «Прокопий Праведный отводит тучу каменную от Устюга Великого». Показанные в самый разгар Первой мировой войны, они произвели на зрителей ошеломляющее впечатление. Один из критиков тех лет А.И. Гидони более всего отмечал созвучность эмоционального строя этих картин мировосприятию современников. Он писал: «Что бы ни было, завтрашний день несет новое, вчерашняя жизнь не повторится. Эти ощущения, столь разные, столь противоречивые, независимо от их значения для творчества Рериха, для нас – показательны, потому что это наши настроения...»6 .

Высоко оценил серию A.M. Горький. Он назвал тогда Н.К. Рериха величайшим интуитивистом современности. А одну из картин – «Град обречённый» – захотел приобрести и получил ее в подарок от художника."

6.Гидони Александр. Творческий путь Рериха//Аполлон. 1915. № 4-5. С. 34.

П.Ф. БЕЛИКОВ, В.П. КНЯЗЕВА Николай Константинович Рерих (Самара: Изд-во "Агни", 1996. - 3-е изд., доп.)

Тогда же и в начале 1914 года спешно пишутся "Зарево" с бельгийским львом, "Крик змия", "Короны" - улетевшие, "Дела человеческие", "Град обреченный" и все те картины, смысл которых мы после поняли". Чувством безысходности пронизана картина "Град обреченный". Громадный змий обвил кольцом городские стены, закрыл наглухо все выходы и вот-вот сомнет в своих смертоносных объятиях каменные твердыни. А. Ремизов в стихотворении, посвященном "Граду обреченному", писал:

Обреченный, в западях у змия, стоял обложенный город.

А еще долго никто ничего не знает и не чует беды -

люди пили и ели,

женились и выходили замуж.

И когда пришел час, забили в набат, -

а уже никуда не уйти!

А. РЕМИЗОВ Жерлица дружинная / Держава Рериха. Сост. Д. Н. Попов. — М.: Изобразительное искусство, 1993. — 444 с.: ил. — Резюме англ.


Тайкий, как постень, напрасный, он приполз в пустополье под город — кто же его чуял и чье это сердце в тосках заныло? — он приполз в пустополье, обогнул белую стену — на башнях огни погасли и не били всполох — обогнул он белую стену и белые башни, выглохтал до капли воду в подземных колодцах, и, стонотный, туго стянулся кольцом, скрестив голову-хвост.

Очи его — озерина, шкура, как нетина-зелень, тяжки волной пошевёлки.

Обреченный, в западях у змия, стоял обложенный город, а еще долго никто ничего не знает и не чует беды — люди пили и ели, женились и выходили замуж.

И когда пришел час, забили в набат, а уже никуда не уйти.

Я помню и забыть не могу, как дети голодные в ямах плачут, спрятались от страха в ямы, босые, дрожат, боятся, голодные, и так жалобно плачут, а я ничем не мог им помочь, и помню еще, как полуживой в груде мертвых смотрел на меня и рукою звал, — и ему я не мог помочь, и еще помню, как полз ко мне с перебитыми ногами и просил пить... Я помню раненую лошадь, как стояла она и плакала, как человек, и помню собаку, душу надрывала она своей тоской, я ее звал, давал есть, а она даже и не смотрела на еду, она сидела на своем дворе, где все сожжено.

Горюч песок в пустополье. Смертоносно дыхание. Шума ветра не слышно, и лишь от зноя хрястают камни.

Горе тебе, обреченный! Ты ли виною или терпишь за чужую вину—горе тебе, обреченный!

Очи его — озерина, шкура, как нетина-зелень, тяжки волной пошевёлки.

И от очей его больно, и холод на сердце, и нет нигде скрыти.

Знаю по грехам нашим...

Знаю, много неправды, много греха вопиет на небо. Надо грех очистить, грех оттрудить.

И ты благослови меня в последнюю минуту ради чистоты земли моей родимой принять кротко мою обреченную долю.


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