Charles Crane became acquainted with Nikolai Roerich in 1921, and the pair cemented their friendship when they travelled together in Darjeeling in 1925. By the early thirties, Crane had become a respected advisor of the Roerich Museum in New York and a sponsor of their Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute. Today, a room at the Roerich Museum is named after Crane, in honor of his friendship with the artist. Towards the end of his life, Crane had collected a number of important Russian works including the present lot.
The present painting, the view of the Rostov Kremlin, was commissioned by Charles Crane in 1922, a year after his return home from China. In 1921 after his tenure in China, Crane and his son, John, took a long trip through Siberia, a daring adventure considering the civil and political situation in Russia at that time. John Crane kept a diary during their two weeks of travel, and left a fascinating account of the places they visited and people they met (fig.1). One of the historic cities that Ambassador Crane was keen on visiting was the ancient city of Rostov and its monastery, which was known for its magnificent church bells. In his account of the trip John wrote, 'The occupation of bell-ringing here was once the proudest and most celebrated in all Russia, and all first-rate bell-ringers had to be trained in Rostov where the art had been supremely developed... It was nearly sun-down when we passed through dark passages to go up to the tower overlooking the beautiful city of Rostov with the lake on its southern side. The view was indeed an artist's delight, with the brown and blue, and silver domes bathed in golden sunlight. Roerich later painted the scene for us in America.'
Nikolai Roerich's poetic vision of this ancient Russian architectural treasure is emblematic of Crane's deep interest in the history and ecclesiastical arts of Russia.