Highlights of Russian Books and Photographs for Sale at Bonhams

New York—Bonhams is pleased to offer a variety of exceptional Russian books, manuscripts, art and photographs at auction on December 10. This is Bonhams’ third Russian book sale since 2012, incorporating for the first time a collection of 160 lots of classic Russian photographs from the 1920s to 1950s.

Manuscripts include important poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, “Voina obyavlena” [War Is Declared!] (est. $40,000 - 60,000); and Sergei Esenin, “Glupoe serdtse, ne beisya" [Silly heart, don’t beat] (est. $60,000 - 80,000); as well as a revealing letter from revolutionary artist and critic, Kazimir Malevich, to the Commissar of Enlightenment Lunacharskii, in which he reflects on his life-long struggle with his critics and the state that is estimated to realize between $70,000 and $100,000.

Especially fine is the group of five poems, by the acclaimed Russian modernist poet, Anna Akhmatova, one of which appears to be unpublished (est. $35,000 - 40,000). The sale is rich in work by the highly eccentric poet and artist Aleksei Mikhailovich Remizov: two important letters (est. $22,000 - 25,000); signed presentation copies of several of his books with estimates ranging between $3,000 - $6,000; and an archive of ornate and occasionally illustrated correspondence to Anna Aleksandrovna (est. $25,000 - 30,000), a patroness in Paris.   

Other notable highlights include:

  • Industriya soltsializma [Socialist Industry], a rare complete set of six classic Constructivist agitational propaganda pamphlets designed by El Lissitzky (est. $12,000 - 18,000);
  • Zakonomernost izmenyaemosti tsvetovykh sochetanii [The Laws Governing the Variability of Color Combinations], Mikhail Matiushin's extremely desirable avant-garde color theory treatise with all of the color charts intact, published in 1932 (est. $60,000 - 80,000);
  • Mayakovsky's rare picture book collaboration with Kiril Zdanevich (est. $8,000 - 10,000); and
  • A rare erotic volume illustrated by the famous illustrator Fedor Rojankovsky (est. $2,500 - 3,500). 

Ballet Russe aficionados will find two exquisite watercolors by Aleksandre Benois (est. $5,000 - 8,000) for stage sets along with several charcoal drawings by the great Russian mystic painter Roerich (estimates range between $1,000 - 1,500 and $3,000 - 5,000). 

The sale will conclude with a large and carefully chosen selection of important Soviet photographs that document industrial progress, city scenes, landscapes, and various events of the early Soviet Union, by internationally celebrated photographers, the most notable being Aleksandr Rodchenko. There are about 30 works by Rodchenko in this sale, which have estimates ranging from $1,600 - 2,000 and $12,000 - 18,000. This section also includes one of the iconic images of World War II, Berlin, 1945 (est. 8,000 - 12,000), Yevgeni Khaldei's famous shot of the raising of the Red Flag on the Reichstag when Berlin fell to the Soviet troops, another rare vintage offering.

The complete catalog can be found at http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22606/, within the next week.

Auction Guide