• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7440

    Important Russian Pictures

    28 November 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 389

    Aleksandr Evgen'evich Iakovlev (1887-1938)

    Le troupeau des chameaux, Sahara

    Price Realised  


    Aleksandr Evgen'evich Iakovlev (1887-1938)
    Le troupeau des chameaux, Sahara
    signed, dated and inscribed 'Entre Fi...et Ahran/A Jakovleff 1924' (lower left)
    tempera on paper laid down on board
    19 x 24¾ in. (48.3 x 62.8 cm.)

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    'The month Tatiana arrived in Paris, July 1925, sasha was just ending his most adventurous voyage to date, an expedition across Africa funded by the Citroën automobile empire. It has gone down in ethnographic history as the Croisière Noire [...].
    The expedition took more than a year to prepare, for depots storing soe eighty tons of foodstuffs and mechanical supplies had to be established along the scheduled route. To be head of the expedition, Citroën chose a vice president of his company, Georges-Marie Haardt, an explorer and art connoisseur who had already traveled extensively in the Sahara [...].
    The convoy of eight caterpillar-treaded vehicles that finally set out in October of 1924 in Colomb-Béchar, in wouthern Algeria, would not reach Madagascar until June of the following year. Beyond the immense desert spaces, the expedition also had to tackle vast stretches of virgin forest and swamps in which its vehicles cam close to being buried in mud. Rocky passes had to be blasted with dynamite, savanna fires that could have melted the very rubber of the vehicles' treads had to be circumvented [...].
    Throughout the crises and complications inevitable to such an expedition, "Iaco", as my great-uncle's colleagues called him, displayed a cheerful calm and industriousness that became legendary among his peers [...].
    "Iacovledd, indefatigable, continues to draw notwithstanding the shaking of the vehicle," Haardt wrote in his journal. "A methodical man, never bored with anything except vulgarity, he is the charming companion of often trying hours." [...]
    Nineteen twenty-five - the year Mein Kampf was first published and Charlie Chaplin issued The Gold Rush - also marked the return of Citroën's Croisière Noire from Africa [...].
    Iacovleff's fame grew by bounds after the expedition's return. His 1926 exhibit at Paris's prestigious Galerie Charpentier, in which he showed many large paintings based on his African sketches, totally sold out.'
    ibid. , pp. 31-35

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Formerly in the collection of Georges-Marie Haardt, leader of the Citroën Expeditions in Africa, Paris.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Aleksandr Iakovlev (1887-1938) was an exceptional artist and larger than life. No one has been able to describe the artist better than Francine du Plessix Gray, the artist's great niece, in a chapter entitled 'Uncle Sasha' in her book Them: A Memoir of Parents (New York, 2005).
    All the quotes and extracts accompanying lots 389-409 have been taken from this book and have been reproduced with her permission.
    We are also most grateful to Francine du Plessix Gray for providing us with previously unpublished photographs depicting Aleksandr Iakovlev.

    'Born in St Petersburg in 1887, Alexandre Iacovleff, the youngest of my great-grandmother's four children, displayed an eerily precocious gift for drawing and at eighteen entered the Imperial Academy of Art. His skills were noticed early in his career by the most influential Russian painter of his teachers' generation, Alexandr Benois, who write that the young man displayed a "tremendous sensibility to nature...One cannot doubt that [his] talent is phenomenal." While in art school, Iacovleff became fascinated with theater and dance; at the age of twenty-three he married a ravishing stage and cabaret performer, Bella Shensheva (also known as Kazarosa), who was particularly noted for her fiery Spanish gypsy dances. I imagine that Uncle Sasha's liaison with Kazarosa was very shocking to Sasha's prim, strong-willed mother. And it is probably that the alliance was stormy from the start, for in 1913, three years into his marriage, Iacovleff's career as a voyaging artist began.'

    ibid., p. 28


    Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Exhibition of works by Alexandre Iacovleff, 1926, no. 1 (label on reverse).