LONDON — The painting of Hovhannes Aivazovsky titled “American Shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar” will be the main lot of the Christie’s “Russian” auction to be held in London. The auction will take place on June 1.

Christie’s Russian Art sale on 1st of June will offer a selection of works by numerous highly sought-after artists including Ilya Mashkov, Niko Pirosmani, Nicholas Roerich and Ivan Aivazovsky. Session II will offer Russian Works of Art from the esteemed workshops of Fabergé, private and Imperial porcelain factories and renowned sculptors. This sale continues Christie’s distinctive focus on offering works from private sources (over 75%), many of which are appearing at auction for the first time in history.

Ivan Aivazovsky’s “American shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar” is one of the finest examples by Russia’s superlative maritime artist to ever appear at auction. Of museum quality, this work was painted in 1873 and sold for the first time at Christie’s in 2007, establishing a new world auction record for the artist at £2.7 million, which was maintained for five years. An artist who enjoyed the patronage of three successive Tsars, in this work Aivazovsky captures the dawn of the steam age, depicting an American ship crossing the waters of the Mediterranean (estimate: £2,000,000-2,500,000,).

Aivazovsky Self-portrait 1874
Aivazovsky Self-portrait 1874

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (29 July 1817 – 2 May 1900) was a Russian Empire Romantic painter. He is considered one of the greatest marine artists in history. Baptized as Hovhannes Aivazian, Aivazovsky was born into an Armenian family in the Black Sea port of Feodosia and was mostly based in his native Crimea.

Following his education at the Imperial Academy of Arts, Aivazovsky traveled to Europe and lived briefly in Italy in the early 1840s. He then returned to Russia and was appointed the main painter of the Russian Navy. Aivazovsky had close ties with the military and political elite of the Russian Empire and often attended military maneuvers. He was sponsored by the imperial family and was well-regarded during his lifetime. The winged word “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush”, popularized by Anton Chekhov, was used in Russia for “describing something ineffably lovely.”

One of the most prominent Russian artists of his time, Aivazovsky was also popular outside Russia. He held numerous solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States. During his almost sixty-year career, he created around 6,000 paintings, making him one of the most prolific artists of his time. The vast majority of his works are seascapes, but he often depicted battle scenes, Armenian themes, and portraiture. Most of Aivazovsky’s works are kept in Russian, Ukrainian and Armenian museums as well as private collections.

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