LONDON — The works of Ivan Aivazovsky and Nicholas Roerich will be the main lots of the Bonhams auction taking place in London on November 26. One of the key lots will be Aivazovsky’s “Arrival of the Columbus Flotilla to the American Coast” (1892), evaluated at 700-900 thousand pounds according to the RIA Novosti press service.
This work of the great Armenian marine painter is from the series of the five works devoted to the life of Columbus and was launched in 1888. The work is considered to be one of the most outstanding works of this series.
In 1892, the celebrated artist Ivan Aivazovsky embarked on a trip to the United States for the first and only time in his life. Invited to represent fine art at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the seventy-year-old artist embraced the opportunity to showcase twenty of his finest paintings. His participation was well received and ensured the success of his contribution to the Columbian Exposition. The present masterpiece was among the most celebrated works exhibited at the Exposition. “Arrival of the Columbus Flotilla to the American Coast” belongs to a series of monumental paintings on the life of Christopher Columbus that Aivazovsky began as early as 1888. It is among the grandest and most beautiful of the paintings in the series, depicting the final and most significant stage of Columbus’ challenging journey to the New World: the moment at which the flotilla finally arrived at the shore of America.
Nearly a decade prior to beginning work on his Columbus series, Aivazovsky traveled to Genoa and Florence to research the explorer’s discovery of the New World. Taking note of the master Karl Briullov’s technique of extensive preparatory study of the scenery depicted in his legendary painting “The Last Day of Pompeii,” the artist closely studied 15 century ship design, as well as costumes and weapons from the era of Columbus, in preparation for his series of paintings on the subject of the eminent explorer. It is suggested that even as Aivazovsky embarked on his trip to Genoa and Florence in 1879, he was already dreaming of making a trip to the United States.
Aivazovsky finally completed five large-scale paintings on the life of Christopher Columbus in anticipation of the opportunity to exhibit them at the 1893 Columbia Exposition.