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Important Russian Pictures
29 November 2006
Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh [Roerich] (1874-1947)
Manasbal Lake, from the series Lakes and Gilgit Path
GBP 180,000 - GBP 220,000
signed with the artist's monogram (lower left) and further signed with his monogram, dated and numbered 'N 23/1925' (on the reverse)
tempera on canvas, laid on board
25 7/8 x 37¾ in. (65.7 x 95.9 cm.)
Louis Horch, New York.
By descent in the family to the present owner.
N. Roerich et. al., Roerich. Himalaya, New York, 1926, p. 90, illustrated.
A. V. Yaremenko, Roerich, New York, 1931, p. 31, incorrectly dated as 1924.
'Manasbal Lake' is one of twelve paintings (four of which are sketches) from the Lakes and Gilgit Path series. The series was completed in 1925 whilst Roerich was staying in Srinagar, present-day Kashmir. He arrived in late spring to prepare for an expedition which he later led through Ladakh and over Karakoram passes into Chinese Turkestan. The start of the expedition was delayed by British authorities who refused to let him into Ladakh leaving Roerich to explore his surroundings thoroughly. The Srinagar area is famous for its water-mountain landscapes. There are several lakes scattered along the Jhelum river valley which the artist not only painted but also wrote about:
'Vular is the largest lake, the most beautiful and the most stormy one. For two nights our boat was dangerously driven against the clay bank... On this lake all is so full of attraction. Over the west is Pir Panzal, glimmering with its snows... Before sunset an astonishing Valhalla rises up over the Pir Panzel, and in the morning the eastern mountains are crystal blue. Upon the sandbanks are herding flocks, and each horse is visible miles away, so unusually transparent is the air.' (N. Roerich, Roerich. Himalaya, New York, 1926, p. 132-133)
Wular Lake, Dal Lake, Nag Lake and Manasbal Lake all became part of that series of the Lakes and Gilgit Path series. The word Manasbal is derived from Mansaroval (Manusarwar), the sacred lake which skirts the Kailash Mountain. As it was quite difficult for Kashmir Hindus to go on such a distant pilgrimage, they satisfied their religious craving by naming this much nearer lake Manasbal after its more distant counterpart. Before leaving for Ladakh, Roerich sent the Lakes and Gilgit Path series, along with other works painted in 1925, to The Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York which financed his travels in India and Central Asia and which by that time housed more than six hundred of the artist's works. At present, most of the paintings from this series are in private collections in the United States.
The years 1924-25 are amongst the most prolific and distinctive periods in the artist's career. More than 300 paintings and some of Roerich's most famous works were painted during his sojourn in India and Sikkim. At a time when Nikolai Roerich himself was undergoing an intense spiritual transformation, the lines and rhythms of mountains and water became for him what they were for Chinese masters of old - a means of delivering a spiritual diary, capturing path-marks along the Way.
We are grateful to Gvido Trepsa of The Roerich Museum, New York, for this catalogue entry.