Avant-Garde Legend Aleksei Remizov Tops Russian Literature Auction at Bonhams

NEW YORK — Aleksei Mikhailovich Remizov’s “U Lisy Bal,” (“At the Fox’s Ball”) from 1939 sold for $62,500 at Bonhams June 26 auction of Russian Literature and Works on Paper. The exquisite calligraphic poem, written in Russian, French and German, was accompanied by four eccentric ink drawings. An avant-garde take on the fables of Reynard the Fox, “U Lisy Bal” makes it easy to see why Remizov was such a polarizing figure in European literary circles.

Remizov’s 1952 original manuscript fairytale “Listotryas. No. 5” was also an auction highlight, realizing $31,250. Featuring a bizarre illustration of a “wolf-omnivore,” the distinctive manuscript, written in Remizov’s signature script, was written while the artist lived in exile in Paris. The majority of the Russian émigré literary community shunned Remizov because he wished to return to the USSR, and his works published in exile are marked by depictions of nightmarish creatures. His talents were not entirely ignored, though — Remizov managed to garner the support of several literary notables during this period, including James Joyce.

The auction attracted international attention, with bidders from the US, the UK and Russia particularly well represented. Telephone bidders and clients participating live online competed fiercely with the focused attendees. Bidders in the room took home the majority of the top lots. 

An inscribed presentation copy of “Stikhi O Rossii” (“Poems about Russia”) by Symbolist poet Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok achieved $31,250. Considered one of Russia’s greatest poets, Blok had an enormous impact on his contemporaries, although the Soviet government denied him a passport to seek medical attention abroad after he fell ill in 1921. He died that same year of the resulting complications. 

Vladimir Vasilevich Lebedev’s famous Constructivist ABC book “Azbuka” (“Alphabet”) from 1925 more than tripled its pre-auction estimate, selling for $25,000. Lebedev is recognized as a master of the soviet picture book, and the wordless “Azbuka” was designed to introduce proletarian children to the alphabet through the striking depiction of everyday objects and tools. The lot on offer came from the masterwork’s first and only printing.

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