One of the difficulties presented by the Russian art market is the result of the turbulent twentieth century endured by Russia; revolution, civil war, foreign invasion and emigration, not to mention willful destruction and the Bolshevik attitude to personal property, have so often separated paintings from their histories.
Conversely, one of the great pleasures of searching for Russian antiques in Scandinavia and Finland is that the relative stability there frequently brings to our days stories that have roots in the Russia of another age. A charming portrait of a handsome young officer, which has hung undisturbed for nearly two hundred years in the Aland Islands, will be offered in the Russian section of the Spring classic auction. It depicts Baron Carl Gustaf Wrede af Elimä (circa 1824- circa 1868), the brother of the present owner's great grandfather. As often happened at the time with children of the nobility, the young Carl Gustaf was sent to St. Petersburg to join the Alexander regiment at a very young age. While there, he must have commissioned a portrait of himself by the painter Evgraf Sorokin (1821-1892), probably to send back to his family far away. The portrait brilliantly captures the slightly frightened face of a young man – hardly more than a boy - in his impressive uniform. Sorokin was also a young man when he painted it, and the picture brings to life the St. Petersburg of Nicholas I. He went on to have a long and glorious career, and was later to become famous as the director of the team who painted the wall paintings of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, the one blown up by Stalin, and rebuilt by Yeltsin.
- Ivan Samarine, Russian Art Consultancy
Portrait of Baron Carl Gustaf Wrede af Elimä
Signed and dated 1843, oil on canvas
27 x 24cm.
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