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ARTS > Christie’s stands by authenticity claims

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Boris Kustodiev’s ‘Odalisque’ is dated 1919 and depicts a nude woman asleep. Arora Fine Arts company has purchased the work for 1.7 million from Christie’s.

Boris Kustodiev’s ‘Odalisque’ is dated 1919 and depicts a nude woman asleep. Arora Fine Arts company has purchased the work for 1.7 million from Christie’s.

Christie’s has continued to insist that Russian artist Boris Kustodiev painted the “Odalisque,” a work of art that is at the center of a long-running authenticity battle that was punctuated by a London court’s ruling last week that it was likely not genuine.

The prominent auction house was ordered to refund 1.7 million pounds to Aurora Fine Arts, a company owned by the Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, which purchased the work in 2005. The London judge, however, cleared the auction house of claims of negligence and misrepresentation, Britain’s The Art Newspaper reported.

“We are surprised and disappointed [by the decision],” a Christie’s spokesman said, adding that it stood by its attribution to Kustodiev. When asked whether the company would appeal, he said it was “considering its options.”

Nude woman asleep


The painting is dated 1919 and depicts a nude woman asleep. It is known to have been exhibited in Riga in 1932 and first sold at Christie’s London salesroom for 19,000 pounds in 1989. It was sold again by the auctioneer to Aurora Fine Arts in 2005. Doubts are thought to have been raised by an art dealer soon afterwards. By 2010, Aurora had filed its lawsuit.

According to The Art Newspaper, during the 20-day hearing, Alisa Borisovna Lyubimova, a research fellow at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg said she was “almost 200 percent sure” that the work was not genuine. The judge also noted in his summary that she would not change her view even if shown contemporary documents tending to suggest authenticity. But Max Rutherston, who works as a consultant for Bonhams, said the quality of work by artists was not always consistently high and concluded that the painting was by Kustodiev’s hand.

Archive material was presented, including research by Kustodiev’s friend Vsevolod Voinov. His monograph of the artist’s work notes a painting called “Sleeping” from 1919, which Christie’s believes is the same work as “Odalisque.” Aurora, however, maintains that another list by Voinov refers to “Sleeping” as a drawing, not a painting.

Debate during the hearing also focused on whether the signature on the work was contemporaneous with the rest of the painting, reported The Art Newspaper.

August/08/2012

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