Artworks Thought Destroyed During WWII Go Under the Hammer

Two master artworks by Russian artist Zinaida Evgenievna Serebriakova, which were earlier considered destroyed in WWII, will be offered by Bonhams in London on 30 May, 2012.

The two allegorical figures are entitled Jurisprudence and Flora and are both estimated to fetch around £700,000 to 900,000.

Serebriakova was commissioned by Belgian nobleman and philanthropist Baron de Brouwer to paint a series of murals in his villa in Belgium, on the French border. Serebriakova was appointed to show Baron de Brouwer's virtues through art and his taste for classical art lent itself to the artist's talent for painting the nude. At the time, it was rare for Russian artists to paint nudes, particularly for female artists.

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The four nudes Serebriakova painted had allegorical attributes that corresponded to the interests and talents of her patron: Jurisprudence, to represent his career as a lawyer; Flora, to illustrate his love of flowers, horticulture and plantations; Light, to acknowledge Baron de Brouwer's power in business, and Art, to represent his patronage of the arts.

According to Bonham's sale details, Serebriakova sent photographs of the paintings to her brother, fellow artist Evgeniy Lansere, who responded to them enthusiastically.

"I love them...You have exactly that which others around you do not an understanding of composition. The panels are excellent in the simplicity of their execution, completeness of shape, and so monumental and decorative," the official sale details by Bonhams quoted Lansere's response when he was shown the artworks.

"You completely understand the form of objects. Particularly difficult, I think, is the panel Jurisprudence. It is especially elegant and richly executed. In everything is simplicity and parsimony, so to speak, of decoration and attributes. I envy you your ease, your flexibility, and how broad and accomplished is your representation of the body," Lansere said.

According to reports, Baron de Brouwer and his wife both died during the Second World War, after the panels were finished, and it was thought that his house had also been destroyed. The house however remained standing and changed ownership a number of times. The murals also remained untouched for over 70 years although the owners thought they had been executed by an unknown Flemmish artist.

Sophie Hamilton, Head of the Russian Art Department, mentioned that the fact the paintings remained undiscovered for many years and have only been seen once in public before, at The State Russian Museum in St Petersburg has attracted a lot of interest from collectors and scholars across the globe.

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