This November, Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf will once again open the floor to the heavenly sphere of icons. Numerous consignments from German, but above all international collectors have been taken into account in that the auction has to take place over three days instead of the usual two. With over 2,100 lots, this year’s auction is quantitatively the strongest the house has ever been able to offer in its history in the field of ‘IMPORTANT RUSSIAN & GREEK ICONS | RUSSIAN ART’. But it is not only the quantity that seeks comparison, it is above all the quality of the icons and Russian art on offer that makes it possible to view and, at best, acquire true museum pieces from Byzantine times up to the time of the last Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
An icon with the washing of the feet, which can be attributed to the Moscow school of painting and was created around 1500 (limit 1,200 euros), can be described as truly museum-quality. It still shows reflections of the famous icon painter Andrei Rublyov, who created a very similar icon with an identical theme in 1427 for the Trinity Monastery in Sergiyev Possad. Only a few other comparative pieces have survived the test of time and are now kept in museums such as the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg or the Hermitage.
As the label of the Soviet agency for the sale of antiquities MosGosTorg as well as the label of the Hammer Galleries from 1937 on the back of an icon with the praise of the Mother of God suggest, it was sold to the Western world in the course of the sale of the inventory of Tsarist buildings by the Soviets in the 1930s. Like so many treasures of the Russian nation, the Bolsheviks sold important works of art to the West for foreign currency under the slogan “Treasures Into Tractors”. As the sale catalogue of the Hammer Galleries in New York notes, this icon was once part of the ‘Winter Palace Collection’ (limit 1,200 euros).
Another museum piece is an icon depicting Christ ‘The Grim Eye’. Also dating to the 16th century, it received a massive vermeil riza with rich niello decoration made in St Petersburg in 1816 during the reign of Alexander I of Russia (1801-1825) (limit 1,200 euros).
Among the Greek icons, a dated Annunciation from 1607 stands out, which can be attributed to the artist Emmanuel Lombardos, born in Crete in 1587, or at least was created in his direct environment (limit 1,200 euros).
Numerous icons from Palech, Mstera and Moscow of the late 19th and early 20th century, some bearing an enamelled oklad, round off the offer. So it does not sound at all prophetic to expect the auction to be brilliant.