Aleksei Petrovich Bogoliubov (1824-1896)
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Aleksei Petrovich Bogoliubov (1824-1896)

Moscow. View of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour from the Kremlin

Aleksei Petrovich Bogoliubov (1824-1896)
Moscow. View of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour from the Kremlin
signed in Cyrillic 'A Bogoliubov' (lower right), inscribed in Russian and dated 'Moscow 1878' (lower left)
oil on canvas
28¾ x 36¼ in. (73 x 92.3 cm.)
Formerly in the collection of Alexander III at Anichkov Palace (Anichkov Palace label attached to the stretcher: inscribed in Russian 'Zapas Polovin./No. 149/[...]/Sob. Ego. Vel/A III).
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Lot Essay

Emperor Alexander III was the main competitor to P. M. Tretyakov for the best collection of Russian Art. Alexander started his collection of art from the Russian school while he was still Tsarevich, with the assistance of his teacher, friend and favourite artist Aleksei Petrovich Bogoliubov. Looking through the correspondence between the Grand Prince Aleksandr Aleksandrovich and Bogoliubov, one can see how the artist confided his creative plans to his titled friend: For my part, I will permit myself to inform your Majesty about my work, which, this year, will consist of executing two views of the city of Moscow; 'View of the Kremlin from the river' and 'From the Kremlin to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. (Paris, 6 November 1878)

The artistic merit of the work 'Moscow. View of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour from the Kremlin' was highly regarded by Bogoliubov's contemporaries. The painting was immediately acquired by the industrialist Baron Iu. O. Ginzburg on the advice of his brother, the patron and collector Baron G. O. Ginzburg. But this artistic work had a more honoured destiny; to decorate the stage of the Anichkov Palace, the residence of the heir to the Russian throne. The story of how the painting was acquired is described by the artist himself in a letter dated 6 November 1879 to Major General A. C. Vasil'kovskii: First of all His Majesty became our honoured patron, that is of The Society of Mutual Assistance for Russian Artists in Paris...Having visited the Society, the Grand Duke acquired the following painting...from Baron Iurii Goratsievich Ginzburg 'View of Moscow from the Kremlin' (by Bogoliubov)...the Tsarevich has a great number of paintings, of course he [Ginzburg] would have been happy to present it to him, but didn't dare...

In 1879 the painting was brought to St Petersburg and was housed in the Anichkov Palace. It is registered as no. 149 in the inventory of Alexander III's paintings made in 1890 by A. I. Somov, the keeper of the Tsar's collection and father of the artist Konstantin Somov. This was far from the last time that this canvas changed its place of residence: following nationalisation in 1917, it became part of the Hermitage Collection and in 1930 it moved to the State Russian Museum.
At the end of the 1920s and start of the 1930s, Soviet museums were struck by a wave of so-called 'Stalin sales'. Works of art were removed from museums, as well as prominent collections from the capitals and smaller provincial galleries. Some were moved to other museums and others were put on national and international markets through the Gosfond Commission and 'Antikvariat'. In the first half of the 1930s the Soviet states trembled not only from the effects of industrialisation, but also from famine and poor harvests. In 1933, when thousands of Ukrainian peasants were dying of hunger, A. P. Bogoliubov's painting 'Moscow. View of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour from the Kremlin' was offered for sale at Antikvariat by the Russian Museum under Act no. 577 of 28 January (TsGALI St Petersburg, fund 282, inventory 1, item 7, p. 8). The work left the country to join the collection of an American collector.

The view of Moscow depicted by Bogoliubov reflects the leisurely, almost provincial life of the old capital with paths made by peasants on the Kremlin hills, small buildings, gardens and private vegetable patches. The monumental bulk of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour dominates the city. The Cathedral was built with people's donations to commemorate the victory of the Russian people over the French in 1812. Construction dragged on and by the 1870s, the Cathedral had still not been consecrated. The interior was lavishly decorated with frieze and bas-relief façades. Bogoliubov, who had lived in Moscow from July to September 1878 and drawn studies for this picture, depicted the scaffolding around a corner of the building. A fascinating panorama of the city spreads out from the Kremlin hills, dominated by the five-domed cathedral.

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