One of Valentin Alexandrovich Serov's earliest works, Portrait of Praskovia Anatolievna Mamontova, has provided a surprising top lot at Sotheby's Important Russian Art auction on November 26 in London.
The piece soared past its £300,000-500,000 valuation, realising a sale price of £1.2m ($1.9m). The figure represents an impressive 143.4% increase for this early representation of the artist's renowned portraiture.
Russian art critic Alexandre Benois was once quoted as saying: "What is remarkable is that the very first paintings of Serov are beautiful. Already here, with astonishing ease, are resolved wonderful chords, already here is expressed a striving for the harmony of the whole".
This is certainly true of Portrait of Praskovia Anatolievna Mamontova, which was painted in 1887 when Serov was just 22. One of his earliest finished paintings, it shows the daughter of Elizaveta Mamontova, whom he considered to be his second mother. His familiarity with the family is skilfully portrayed by the sullen, pouting pose in which the 14-year-old Praskovia sits.
The top lot of the auction was expected from Vasili Vereshchagin's Transportation of the Wounded. However it could not compete with the dramatic results seen by the Serov work, selling within its £800,000-1.2m estimate for £937,250 ($1.5m).
Inspired by the Russo-Turkish war (1877-1878), the masterpiece was exhibited widely throughout Europe and America to great success upon its creation, with the proceeds donated by the artist to the poor of Vienna.
See more results from Russian art week with our report on Christie's Important Russian Art auction, which was also held yesterday (November 26) in London.
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