Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (1863-1919) was the third son of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich (1832-1909) and the grandson of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855). In 1900, he married Princess Marie Georgievna (1876-1940), the second daughter of George I, King of the Hellenes (1845-1913), and Queen Olga (1851-1926), née Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. The couple had two daughters, Nina (1901-1974) and Xenia (1903-1965). The family lived at Mikhailovskoe, the St Petersburg palace of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich, before settling at their Crimean estate, Kharaks, in 1907.
Grand Duchess Marie and the children left Russia for England in the summer of 1914, intending to stay there for three weeks. However, when the First World War broke out, they were forced to stay in England, never to return to Russia. Grand Duke George, who had been granted permission to live in Finland in 1917, was later arrested and exiled to Vologda. By July of 1918, he had been sent back to Petrograd and imprisoned, along with his brother Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich (1859-1919) and their cousin Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (1860-1919). In January 1919, the three grand dukes were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad at the Peter and Paul Fortress.
While in England, Grand Duchess Marie dedicated her efforts to establishing and managing several military hospitals in Harrogate, where she lived with her daughters. King George V awarded her the Royal Red Cross for her tireless and generous efforts. Between the months of March and April 1915, Grand Duchess Marie commissioned portraits of her two beautiful daughters by one of London's most celebrated artists of the time, Philip Alexius de Laszlo. Having painted portraits of some of the most influential figures of his day, by the time the Hungarian born de László moved to London in 1907, his career and reputation were firmly established, having received numerous medals of honour for his artistic achievements. An accomplished and exceptionally talented portraitist, de László captured the beauty and innocence of the two young girls with great sensitivity as well as accuracy.
Following the successful sale of Russian Works of Art from the descendants of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich in New York on 20 May 2015, Christie's is delighted to offer these exceptional portraits for sale for the first time, one hundred years since they were painted.
Lots 32 and 33 will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Philip de László’s oeuvre, being prepared by the Hon. Mrs de Laszlo and a team of editors.