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The interview: Martin Hans Borg, Russian Art Expert at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers

Martin Hans Borg, Russian art expert from Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Bredgade 33, Copenhagen, Denmark, talks about the Russian art auction on June 8th, 2018, as well as the role of provenance in the selection of items for auctions.

  • Preview at Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen: 24-28 May 2018
  • Preview at Shapero Modern in London during Russian Art Week: 1-4 June 2018
  • Russian Art Auction at Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen: 8 June 2018 at 2 pm (UTC+2)
  • Online Russian Art Auction, 11 June 2018 at 5 pm (UTC+2)
Martin Hans Borg
Martin Hans Borg, Russian Art Expert at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Bredgade 33, Copenhagen, Denmark

– Please tell us about the upcoming Russian art sale. What are the highlights?

– For the upcoming Russian art auction, we have published a separate catalogue in Russian and English to accommodate our large client base. There are 145 lots at the auction worth a total of DKK 10 million (EUR 1,4 million). This time there will be both a preview in Copenhagen and London, where we are looking forward to exhibit some of the highlights at Shapero Modern during Russian Art Week in London. Among the highlights are three Fabergé Easter egg pendants belonging to Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia (1860-1922), a charming painting depicting country life by Feodor Vasilievich Sychkov from 1934 and a bronze sculpture by Ivan Fedorovich Kovshenkov, which depicts a "Black Sea Cossack from Sevastopol 1854 and 1855". There are also a number of fine works by workmaster Feodor Rückert from Fabergé in the form of a kovsh, a small box and several bowls in gilded silver with cloisonné enamel.

Henrik Wigström: A Russian Easter egg enamel pendant.
Fabergé Easter egg pendant belonging to Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia (1860-1922)

– Does the history of Danish-Russian relations affect the scope of items sold at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers? When did Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers start the tradition of Russian art sales?

– It is no coincidence that so many costly items from Russia have found their way to Denmark. Over time, strong ties were established between Denmark and Russia. The first formal connection took place between King Hans of Denmark and Ivan III of Russia in 1493. During the Romanov dynasty, the connection grew even closer due to the Danish-Russian Alliance during the Great Northern War and increased trade during Denmark’s florissant period of the late 1700s.

The connection between the two countries culminated in 1866 when Christian IX's daughter, Dagmar, was married to the later Tsar Alexander III and was named Tsaritsa Marie Feodorovna. She helped introduce Danish businesses in Russia, including the Great Nordic Telegraph Company and East Asiatic Company. During the Revolution in 1917, Tsaritsa Marie Feodorovna fled to Denmark, where she, together with her daughter, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, settled in Hvidøre Castle, north of Copenhagen.

Bruun Rasmussen has held Russian auctions since 2006 and is very successful within the category. Last year we achieved a world record on Russian icons and have generally been favoured by the historic Danish-Russian relations throughout the centuries – partly through the Russian Tsars, who were very generous during their travels in Denmark and the many Danes who have been posted in Russia during the 19th and 20th century. In addition,

we have contact with the branches of the Danish royal house, which continuously consigns Russian art treasures to our auctions. It always provides an extraordinary touch when there are royal and imperial provenances on the lots that are up for auction. This is also the case at the summer's Russian auction.

Ivan Fedorovich Kovshenkov
"Black Sea Cossack from Sevastopol 1854 and 1855", bronze sculpture by Ivan Fedorovich Kovshenkov

– What other significant Russian art auctions were held at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers? How often are Russian art auctions held at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers?

– We hold Russian auctions twice a year, in June and December, each time there is both a traditional auction as well as a subsequent online auction. Our largest Russian auction so far was held in June 2017, where we sold the Zeiner-Henrichsen Collection and achieved both a total sales record for our Russian auctions of DKK 40 million (€ 5.4 million / € 7 million including buyer's premium) and a world record of DKK 4.6 million (€ 620,000 / € 806,000 including buyer's premium) for a Russian icon with the icon "Christ's Descent from the Cross" from the Novgorod School in the 16th century.

Feodor Vasilievich Sychkov
Feodor Vasilievich Sychkov: Country life in a Russian village at winter time, 1934

– How is artwork selected for upcoming auctions? How is the quality of a work of art established? How important is the role of provenance in the appraisal of items?

– We primarily focus on older Russian art, decorative art, furniture, jewellery and collectibles from the period before 1917. Genuineness, quality and provenance are paramount to us when we select items for our auctions. Price levels fluctuate slightly on our two auction platforms. At the traditional auctions we sell the most expensive items. Here the minimum price is DKK 10,000, while the level at our online auctions is slightly lower, where the minimum price is DKK 1,500. We almost always collaborate with the renowned art expert Elena Nesterova, a professor at St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Art, who assists us in determining the authenticity of the Russian paintings and drawings.

– What opportunities for participation in Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers auctions exist for potential buyers?

– We have buyers from all over the world at our Russian art auctions, but the majority are residents living in Russia, England and the United States. It is easy to buy at auction with us. At the traditional auctions in Copenhagen you can either show up in the saleroom, bid by phone, make a commission offer or use our live bidding via bruun-rasmussen.dk. On our online auctions you can bid any time during the day, as long as you have signed up as a customer with us.

8 Jun 2018: Russian art & icons
8 Jun 2018: Russian art & icons, Bruun Rasmussen, Copenhagen

Photos: courtesy of Bruun Rasmussen

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