SELLING RUSSIA’S TREASURES
The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art
By Natalya Semyonova, Nicolas V.Iljine, New York, 2013, 383 pages
An authoritative illustrated account of the unprecedented sale of Russia’s cultural patrimony by the Soviet government.
Selling Russia’s Treasures documents one of the great cultural dramas of the twentieth century: the sale, by a cash-hungry Soviet government, of the artistic treasures accumulated by the Russian royal family, aristocracy, and church over the centuries and nationalized after the October 1917 revolution. An astonishing variety of objects, from icons and illuminated manuscripts to Fabergé eggs and Old Master paintings, entered the collections of wealthy westerners like Andrew Mellon; in fact, the canvases he purchased from the Hermitage now form the core of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Written by the leading experts in the field and long regarded as the definitive treatment of its subject, the original Russian edition of Selling Russia’s Treasures is sought after by scholars and laymen alike. Now, for the first time, this important book is made available in English, in a revised and expanded edition that includes new material on the secret files of the Hermitage, the sale of religious art, and the loss of twentieth-century French paintings from the Museum of New Western Art.
Numerous color plates reunite long-dispersed masterworks, if only on the page, and rare photographs and archival documents help bring the buried history of the “Stalin sales” to light. Several appendices—including a checklist of pieces sold from Russia’s crown jewels, a chronology, and biographies of key figures—add to the value of this volume, which not only reveals an important episode of cultural history, but is also relevant to contemporary debates about museum deaccessioning and the repatriation of cultural objects.
Distributed for the M.T. Abraham Center for the Visual Arts Foundation“