A Shishkin’s Painting Set a New Record at a Prague auction

I. Shishkin. At the Mirror (Lady in a Salon Reading a Letter). 1870. Oil on canvas. 58,0 И 39,0 cm

Last Sunday, on April 2, a painting «At the Mirror» another title «Lady in a Salon Reading a Letter» by Ivan Shishkin was sold at an auction at the Zhofin palace in Prague. The important canvas managed to fetch 8,900,000 Czech korunas ($400,000). The starting price of the lot was CZK 7,500,000.

Organizers of the sales a Prague-based art gallery Pictura said that the Shishkin’s painting set a new record for the Czech antique auctions. However, in future the experts of the gallery intend to pay much more attention to the pre-sale advertisement as they believe that the work could have made considerably more money.

Reportedly, the painting was acquired by a private Russian collector. The 86 year-old former owner of the canvas Jan Biscoup, the head of an old noble family has dreamt about such a result.

The provenance of the work is unique indeed. For a long time the exceptional picture was «hidden» in the house of the Czech noble family Biscoup in Prague. The Biscoup family managed to preserve the priceless canvas after nationalization of lands and castles in 1948 and confiscation of artworks in 1960.

Several art experts were aware of the painting’s location but preferred not to inform officials of the socialist Czechoslovakia. For instance, a Czech art critic Fiala described the uncharacteristic Shishkin’s work in his books, but always marked «location unknown» in the proper column. Fiala once promised to keep silence until the socialist regime fell, so to preserve the painting unharmed.

Experts of the National Gallery stated the genuineness of the canvas only recently. The oil on canvas (58.0 x 39.0 cm) dating 1870 is signed in the left side in Russian «I. Shishkin 1870». Vera Tchedlova, the expert from the National gallery in Prague states: «Manner of painting and technological execution of the picture corresponds with other works by the artist dating the same period. In our opinion, this portrait was most likely painted by Ivan Shishkin in 1870».

Mother of the present elder of the family acquired the painting from Mrs. Muller, the wife of a Czech civil servant who had worked in Finland in the village of Kuokkala (later Repino near St. Petersburg). The diplomat, who was a close friend of the artist’s son-in-law, the husband of Shishkin’s daughter Lidia Baron Ridinger, purchased the work from the Shishkin’s relative before returning to Prague.

In 1948, Eva Miller sold «At the Mirror» to her noble friend Biscoup for a quite modest price. Shortly after that, the Biscoups were banished from the family estate. The family rented a humble house in Prague and had to earn money exclusively with physical labor.

The second wave of confiscations took place throughout the country on February 29, 1960. The Shishkin’s canvas was taken away as well. Still, the work was returned to its owners after an incompetent expert of the Prague National Gallery declared that the paitning was of no particular value.

An album with reproductions of paintings by Ivan Shishkin may be ordered at the Internet-shop http://shop.antiq.info/255_1412.html at http://www.antiq.info.

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Published in: on April 5, 2006 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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