Published: Friday, February 22, 2008
Czar Alexander III is going home to Estonia.
An 1884 oil painting of the Russian ruler was sold for $80,000 Thursday at Kilshaw’s auction house by an Estonian bidder who joined the Victoria auction event by phone. He was one of three Estonians who phoned in to try to buy the impressive portrait, done by Russian artist Johann Koler.
“We had live phone bidders from all over the world,” said Alison Ross of Kilshaw’s.
Other paintings by Koler (1826-99) have sold recently for up to $120,000. His portrait of Czar Alexander III, Russia’s emperor from 1881 until his death in 1894, has a distinct connection to Estonia.
“I believe it may have been commissioned by the Estonians as a gift to Czar Alexander III,” Ross said. “Right around that time that did happen, and with Koler being the father of Estonian painting it’s very likely that they would have commissioned him.”
The painting sold at Kilshaw’s, which came from an unnamed Victoria estate, is one of four that Koler is believed to have painted of Czar Alexander III.
“The other three were substantially earlier,” Ross said.
She said the phones at Kilshaw’s were busy yesterday with calls from people curious to know how much the painting went for. That followed a busy auction night that attracted a large crowd wanting to be get a look at the painting and be part of the action.
“It was unbelievable with the line-up just to get in the door, the seats were gone instantaneously,” Ross said. “It was very exciting, particularly with the phone bidding.”
The “under bidder”, or the person who came in with the second-highest bid, was “a prominent local collector,” she said.